Several times a year President Belton provides donors with an inside look into PLU. Read the latest letter below.
Fall semester is quickly approaching, and we are all filled with eager anticipation as students make the decision to join the PLU community. Thank you for your part in helping students choose PLU. I hope the updates in this letter will help you feel the same excitement I am as we head into a new school year.
Many Lutes have been asking me about PLU’s incoming class. The value of higher education, changing admission practices and decreasing enrollment are hot topics nationally. Despite the challenges faced by higher education throughout the country, PLU’s enrollment numbers for 2023-2024 are stronger than anticipated. I’m delighted to share that 667 first-year students and 126 transfer students have made plans to attend PLU in the fall, far exceeding our original goal. We know not all of them will take the final steps to register, but these are very positive numbers and a story that makes PLU stand out in meaningful ways.
As we do every year, we’ve asked students and their families to share with us why they’ve chosen PLU. Here are a few of the top reasons – I think they will feel familiar to you:
- Scholarship support, including the Fixed Tuition Guarantee
- Campus visits and interactions with welcoming faculty, staff, students and community members
- Academic offerings and reputation of academic programs, including study away
Welcoming a new class of students is one of the greatest rewards of being PLU’s president, and I share my joy with the utmost gratitude for everyone, including you, who plays a role in contributing to this thriving community.
As we see a greater number of students and families showing interest in PLU, we’re also feeling encouraged that our efforts to break down barriers to a college education and actively engage our local community are having a positive impact.
- The number of students coming from within Washington State has grown the most – 127 deposits more than last year – and the majority from right here in Pierce County.
- For the third year in a row, PLU’s incoming class will be more than 50% students of color, reflecting our ongoing efforts to break down barriers to college access and continue to be a place where all students feel welcome and supported.
- We’re also welcoming 362 first generation students — more than ever before — and it’s a significant honor for PLU to be the place these families trust for their first college experience
Helping students thrive is a multifaceted and ever-changing challenge, especially as we welcome greater numbers of students who are not yet familiar with the complexities of the college experience. It’s also a challenge that we are called to face head-on and that creates opportunities for the PLU community to live our mission in innovative and impactful ways. Your partnership
makes possible the practices and innovations that we know are most important for student success. As you saw above, scholarships, strong academic programs and a supportive community are still the foundation on which we thrive.
With these successes and celebrations, I will continue to repeat that PLU cannot “do it alone.” Not only is this community of care, of which you are a part, already critical to our success, we are also seeing how much more we can achieve when working collaboratively within our local community. And we are finding many partners eager to join us. Here are just a few recent examples of the work that we’re doing to collaborate with our communities:
- Seed Teachers Program — a partnership with Degrees of Change and Tacoma Public Schools. Designed to address the lack of diverse teachers and build a more equitable public education system, Seed Teachers offers students a full-ride scholarship to PLU, paid teaching opportunities and extensive mentoring.
- Automatic Admission Partnership with Tacoma Community College (TCC). Qualified students looking to transfer from TCC to PLU will receive guaranteed admission and an annual scholarship — all without going through a traditional application process. This program breaks down barriers to access private education, offering local students the opportunity to make a seamless transition as they pursue their academic goals.
- Growth of the Automatic Admission Program. PLU’s Automatic Admission Program provides guaranteed admission and a scholarship to qualifying high school students. Since starting this program in 2021, we’ve grown our reach from partnering with the Bethel School District to 30 school districts throughout Washington, welcoming 123 incoming students this year.
These successful partnerships are having a direct impact here on campus and they’re setting the example for how other institutions partner together. Our team at PLU recently worked with Washington’s state institutions to assist them in implementing similar automatic admission programs. While we seek to educate students for their own lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care, we’re also working to further embody those values as an institution.
Thank you for demonstrating your care for PLU students and believing in the positive impacts that Lutes have in their communities near and far. The world needs more Lutes! I look forward to sharing more news with you in the coming months.
P.S. You’re invited to our 10th annual Bjug Day on October 17-18! The power of this generous community has made an indelible mark on PLU and its students. This year, we’ll reflect on all that you’ve helped accomplish with online and in-person celebrations. See what’s coming at plu.edu/celebratebjugday.
May 2023: Attaway, Class of 2023!
Commencement 2023, Senior Stories, Alumni Travel Seminar
February 2023: Your impact on campus space
New Anatomy & Physiology Lab, Together for Well-Being, Upcoming Events
November 2022: Thankful for you!
Presidential Town Hall, Resolute, Bjug Day Recap
September 2022: You're invited! Homecoming, town hall and more
Move-In Day, Convocation, Stay Connected
August 2022: Bringing in a new academic year
President Belton’s Donor Letter, Words of Encouragement, and Save the Dates
July 2022: The reach of your support
President Belton’s April 2022 Donor Letter, Class of ’22 Student Highlights, Save the Dates
Class of 2022 Commencement, Spring 2022 Resolute, and Summer Events
Presidential Town Hall Invitation, Alumni Gratitude, and Upcoming Events
Confronting Mental Health, Student Leaders, and Zach Willis ’19
Letter from President Belton, J-Term Study Away, and Upcoming Events
Presidential Town Hall Recording, Yesenia Arellano ’13 Story, and Bjug Day Recap
Alumni-Student Mentorship, PLU Internship Fund, and Upcoming Fall Events
Right now, more than 750 new PLU graduates are starting their next big journey. You helped them get here. The unprecedented nature of this last year was met by unprecedented generosity from you and Lutes all over the world. Thank you.
It is difficult to express how filled with gratitude my heart is — and the hearts of our staff, faculty and especially students — because of your support. The Lute community came together this year in amazing ways: over $16 million was committed in financial support, hundreds of Lutes donated their talent as mentors and volunteers, and thousands joined virtually to learn, provide encouragement and stay connected. In every challenging moment, and every celebration, Lutes cared for each other.
You showed up for PLU students, faculty and staff in really impactful ways last year, and I want to celebrate with you the accomplishments of your support:
- 1,807 Lutes created the biggest Bjug Day of Giving yet, raising more than $1 million in support of scholarships, programs, and additional student needs.
- Gifts to the PLU Fund provided scholarships for more than 700 students and helped cover emergency needs for nearly 200 students.
- Lutes established the new Good Trouble Fund to help more than 40 Black students cover the unexpected costs of college so they may truly thrive at PLU.
- 129 Lutes showed great care for student mental health and wellness on GivingTuesday. Gifts supported additional psychiatry hours, equity training, and improved technology and systems to deliver better care.
- More than 200 Lutes surpassed the goal of raising $110,000 to help at least 10 new standout student leaders attend PLU through the expansion of the Act Six scholarship program to Yakima and a formalization of the Palmer Scholars partnership.
- PLU Athletics faced a season like no other. More than 240 Lutes stepped up to help tackle additional costs so student-athletes could safely return to competition in the spring.
- More than 70 alumni mentors provided outstanding guidance to help students and student-athletes tackle the transition to college, connect to internship and employment opportunities, and ask big questions about vocation.
Our community took on really important work last year, both in response to the evolving challenges posed by the pandemic and forging ahead with our five-year strategic plan. Higher education is in the midst of significant change and challenge. One element of PLU’s strategic plan calls for the university to review, reimagine, and in some cases discontinue academic program offerings so that a PLU education remains relevant, accessible, and transformative.
As a key step in moving the strategic plan forward, a committee of 20 elected faculty members completed a review of academic programs this spring. The faculty evaluated each academic program to ensure PLU’s offerings respond to student interests in a way that efficiently stewards resources and aligns with our commitment to provide a quality liberal arts and professional education, infused with the core elements of Lutheran higher education. The faculty explored the demand for existing and new majors and minors, as well as graduate programs, and evaluated support needs. Through this collaborative and difficult process, and in coordination with other excellent work across the academic division, some programs will be reduced in size or eliminated, while others will be added or expanded. I invite you to learn more about the strategic plan and vision at plu.edu/strategic-planning.
The work of this last year has paved the way for faculty to ideate, innovate and reimagine our curriculum and how it is delivered. One way faculty are creating stronger programs is by bringing key insights and perspectives from multiple disciplines together in ways that will both attract and benefit students. To highlight one example, faculty with expertise in Nordic studies will move from a small, standalone department to join the vibrant and growing Global and Area Studies program. This will engage a greater number of students by providing new access to their courses. Aligning Scandinavian Cultural Center programming will strengthen the connection between academic study and PLU’s heritage, for the benefit of students and the community. Additional new programs and initiatives are being explored, and I look forward to sharing news as plans coalesce.
I continue to be grateful that so many members of this community take time to share your thoughts and engage in conversation about what you find distinctly meaningful about PLU. The sharing of your ideas and feelings is a huge testament to PLU’s history of creating transformative experiences and to the caring nature of Lutes. Together we have a proactive commitment to living and uplifting our PLU values.
Many donors have asked about plans for the fall. I’m excited to say we intend a full return to in-person experiences — classrooms, athletic competitions, performing arts (including Christmas concerts), full residence halls, and more — all with appropriate safety measures and a spirit of renewed community, fun and care. I’m especially proud of how our students have supported each other, like the seniors in the School of Business who reached out to rising sophomores and juniors who hadn’t yet registered for fall classes to check-in and encouraged them to continue.
Taking time to thank you and provide an inside look into PLU is always a highlight for me. I hope I have conveyed how Lutes are caring for each other and our community in a truly PLU way, and how you are an important part of this work. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting PLU students and the leaders, creators, change-makers and caring global citizens they will become. Because the world needs more Lutes.
P.S. I hope you will watch for opportunities to join us both in-person and virtually in the fall. Mark your calendars now for Homecoming & Family Week, Sept. 28 – Oct. 3, and for the Bjug Day of Giving, Oct. 19 – 20. More to come!
Your Impact, Family Spotlight, and Homecoming & Family Week Save the Date