Last week it was announced that the University had received a $6 million anonymous donation for its nascent nursing program. The gift means the program is well on its way to accruing the funds necessary to start up and build a nursing building on campus.
In many ways, the nursing program represents a new chapter for the University, but it also represents the end of an era. The nursing building, along with the J. Alvin renovation, is the last construction project planned for the foreseeable future. The finishing of the nursing building will cap a decade-long construction binge, funded almost entirely by donations, that has completely changed the face of JBU.
In the last 15 years, every major building on campus, except Mayfield, the LRC and the Health Complex are either new or have undergone major renovations. But now that we are nearing the end of an era of building, the question arises how we will spend the donations we receive in the coming decade.
We The Threefold believe that the school should commit to a decade of value, just as they committed to a decade of growth. The University should use the money not being spent on infrastructure to reduce the cost of tuition.
Obviously, many donations are earmarked specifically for building projects. Scholarship funds don’t drive donations like a shiny new building does. However, there will still be an increase in available funds in the absence of major construction projects.
The last 10 years have transformed the school into an elite Christian Liberal Arts University, but they have also priced out less well-off students, the very demographic John Brown I sought to reach when he founded the school. We may be ranked second in value, but the rise of the school’s quality of infrastructure has come with a raising in the quality of its faculty. With that change comes raised costs.
Without a concerted effort to extend more scholarships to less well off students, the school will become just like many other elite Christian schools: elite, expensive, exclusive, and unintentionally unwelcoming. Many proudly call JBU “The Wheaton of the South.” To become Wheaton, however, we would have to lose something that makes us special: the overwhelmingly welcoming atmosphere that comes from a legacy of being a small, obscure school nestled in the Ozarks.
In the last decade, donations have helped to make John Brown great. Now lets use them to keep John Brown good.