Hope International University (HIU)—a Fullerton, Ca. based non-profit, Christian school with approximately 1,700 students—has been placed on “warning status” by its accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
A statement posted to WASC’s website explained that a recent visit from a review team found significant problems with HIU’s finances and strategic planning. The review board stated that they were “gravely concerned” with the university’s long-term viability and the effect of declining resources on the school’s educational effectiveness.
The team also noted that the school was recently able to secure enough additional funds to post a budget surplus, its first in years, and invest in several initiatives that could lead to future financial stability. Amongst the initiatives undertaken by HIU is an attempt to reverse the school’s declining enrollment.
While WACS did recognize the school’s projected 3% annual enrollment growth, it chided the administration for failing to provide any analysis for the gains, which meant that the school’s projections could not be verified. Additionally, the review team stated that HIU’s low retention and graduation rates—the school loses approximately 33% of its students after their first year and only graduates 19% of students in four years—erase any significant gains the school makes by increasing enrollment.
The report states that the team visiting HIU found it “unacceptable” that the board had not been “exercising appropriate oversight over institutional integrity, policies and ongoing operations.” Also, concerns were raised about the effectiveness of the university’s governing board in addressing the school’s “fragile financial situation.”
The various financial challenges facing HIU led the review team to express concern about the school’s ability to support its academic programs, specifically in relationship to the ability to attract and retain quality faculty members. The report notes that the school’s delicate financial state has created an over-reliance on adjunct faculty. Additionally, many of the school’s professors carry a heavier than normal teaching load, which puts the school at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new faculty.
The team recommends that HIU reevaluate its staffing model to insure it has an adequate number of full-time faculty, and begin the process of reassessing the courses offered. The report does mention that the university is in the process of developing new ways of measuring the academic and financial viability of the school’s degree programs.
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