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Notes from the 2023 Bethel College fall board meetings
The Collegian news staff compiled its notes from the general sessions.
Ahead of Fall Fest weekend, the Bethel College board of directors visited campus for the semester’s board meetings. The Collegian news staff was present at the general sessions which were the only sessions open to the media and public.
Oct. 12, 3:30-4:30 p.m. | April Powls
The meeting started with a presentation by Matthew Fleck and Hayden Wallace, the vice president and president of the Student Government Association (SGA). They completed an SGA assessment, mentioning the three ISRs they have completed, their recent updates to the SGA constitution, and alterations to the senator election process.
The SGA reps also highlighted student appreciation of the organization on campus and things expressed through their anonymous complaint form found on the SGA website. Following this, Wallace and Fleck answered questions posed by the board about items like elections, club involvement, future projects, and safety on campus.
In housekeeping, the board addressed Cornerstone Day, encouraging those present to donate. President Jon Gering then introduced VP for Business and Finance Jayna Bertholf, to present Bethel College’s economic model in 45 minutes or less:
Bertholf addressed rising concerns in higher education, specifically as they apply to Bethel College.
Bertholf summarized the economic models from 2018-2022 analyzing retention, tuition increase, excess revenue, etc. and then operational core, auxiliary enterprises, and philanthropy capital and how that affected the college’s budget in the past few years.
Net tuition is decreasing over the years. Costs of instruction, academic support, student services, and athletics over time increased. Total operating expenses have also increased and reflect the “HEPI” (higher education price increase). Utilities for higher education have increased by more than 40% while other categories are rising by roughly 5%. Cash funds are increasing as well — which is a positive.
Since the college has recently been accredited, Bertholf pointed out the Composite Financial Index score given by the Department of Education that measures how the college deals with debt, how efficient the college is, etc.
Bertholf concluded by outlining her call to action: “I don't think we will ever get 500 students who pay tuition, I don't think we’ll get there,” she said. “What do we do with that? That’s the question. I think we need to find ways to create unrestricted recurring revenue while protecting our cash reserves.”
Bertholf provided the following four items as goals she believes the college should work toward to reach better financial stability:
Publicize Bethel’s unique value proposition to encourage enrollment.
Offer giving options that funnel to operations and educating our donors about what the college needs.
Find alternative revenue streams that are unrestricted and recurring.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success,” a quote from Alexander Graham Bell.
The board adjourned at 4:30 p.m. until its next open session the following day.
Oct. 13, 2:30-3:30 p.m. | Lauren McCreary
The session opened with a report from Vice President for Academic Affairs Bob Milliman and Bethel College’s committee for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC): “The Higher Learning Commission: What You Need to Know for March 2024 — Writing the Assurance Argument.”
Bethel College is a part of the HLC. Recognizes that Bethel is credible for higher education. Allows students to apply for financial aid from the federal government. Milliman details what the HLC is and what it means for Bethel. Milliman breaks down the accreditations and their fulfillments:
Mission: Knowledge and Adherence.
Integrity: Honesty and Consistency.
Teaching and Learning: Quality education.
Teaching and Learning: Assessment and improvement.
Resources, Planning, and Effectiveness: Financial health and strategic planning.
In March, the college will have individuals come in to check the evidence that will be provided during the HLC review. Then, HLC peer reviewers will arrive to evaluate how the college has improved.
Mid-August to the end of October: First draft.
November and December: Feedback.
January and February: Proofing and submission.
March: Prepare for the visit.
March 25-26: Evaluation visit from peer reviewers.
Then, faculty and staff members spoke on their tasks ahead of the HLC review:
Mission: Barbara Thiesen, joined by committee members Megan Kershner and Michael Unruh…
Process: Brainstorming meetings for each core component, gather evidence, reading the 2019 assurance argument, and drafting the document.
Argument: “The most fundamental way that Bethel seeks to foster a climate of respect to diversity is to respond to the diversity within its own community.”
Teaching and Learning Quality: Kip Wedel with Jennifer Chappell Deckert and Dan Quinlin…
Separate meetings on every core component, drafting the document, gathering of documentation, and final edits.
Evidence: Vocational Seminar that is being applied. Responds to a vision statement about vocation. New Course Proposal Form for Vocation Seminar, proposal for vocation seminar and staffing, and application for NetVUE Program Development Grant.
Teaching and Learning Evaluation: Rachel Epp Buller…
Get students to Bethel and complete their education.
Evidence: Academic catalog, examples of syllabi, faculty handbook, absence of dual-credit courses currently offered, and online program offerings newly approved by HLC but not in place yet.
Finances and Planning: Jayna Bertholf with Gregg Dick and Elissa Harris…
Component 5B: “The institution’s resource base supports its educational offering and its plans for maintaining and strengthening its quality in the future.”
Evidence: CFI scores since 2019, endowment fund growth table and charts, cash reserves growth table and charge, no more endowment draws, enrollment report from admissions (which shows an increase), recent additions to physical infrastructure, and technological upgrades.
Integrity: Pam Tieszen with Janet Fulmer, Clark Oswald, and Tricia Clark…
“The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.”
Evidence: Board manual, policies and bylaws — including a conflict of interest policy, and documentation of the selection process for board members and for selection of chair.
Oct. 13, 3:30-5 p.m. | Brett Esch
New board members were approved by acclamation to serve a full term regardless of predecessor status. Bringing the Wellness Center campaign to an end is the leadership’s financial focus right now with a plan to create more concrete goals for financial campaigns in the future.
Action items for the Financial Affairs & Risk Committee:
(Approved) Recommends acceptance of a revision of Bethel College’s investment policy that would use 5% of average market value of the previous 3 years on 12/31/XX rather than 6/30/XX.
(Approved) For the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, reduce operating departmental budgets by 10% except Business Affairs budget by just 5%.
(Approved) Recommends acceptance of the audit report received from Knudsen Monroe & Company for the fiscal year ended 6/30/23 and 6/30/22.
(Approved) Recommends approval of the Fiscal Year 2025 increases — 3% tuition, 3% room, and 5% food.
(Approved) The Fiscal Year 2025 preliminary budget achieves revenue of just under a set amount. The committee concluded that all operating expenses must be covered by operating revenue to avoid HLC conflicts. The committee recommends approval of the preliminary Fiscal Year 2025 budget.
Following farewells to outgoing board members, the fall session adjourned.