In-Depth

Why The University Of St. Thomas Is Launching A Complete Restructuring

In a recent interview, the university’s current president, Richard Ludwick, told News 88.7 that last year, the small Catholic liberal arts college had about a $2 million deficit out of a $65 million total budget.

Dr. Richard Ludwick became the University of St. Thomas’ ninth president in 2017.

For several years, the University of St. Thomas, with its main campus nestled in the heart of Montrose, has struggled with year-over-year deficits.

Under its previous president, the budget ran into the red, one year by over $1 million, then $700,000.

In a recent interview, the university’s current president, Richard Ludwick, told News 88.7 that last year, the small Catholic liberal arts college had about a $2 million deficit out of a $65 million total budget.

So, as we move into this next year, we are looking to break even with some of the dynamics that we’re looking at,” Ludwick said. “When you don’t face those questions, it becomes very difficult. We’re not only facing those questions, we’re solving them and that’s the really exciting piece of how we move forward financially.”

The Houston university has since announced what it believes will be the solution: a complete restructuring of its academics, extra-curricular activities and administration. Calling it a “renewal,” Ludwick said that will speed up the college’s five-year plan that already has ambitious goals for its enrollment, culture and infrastructure. It’s expected to be a year-long process and take effect by the fall of 2020.

“We have already made incredible progress toward that bold future, and this renewal will take us even farther,” Ludwick said in a statement about the restructuring. “Now is the time for UST to lead the way in innovating solutions to the challenges higher education faces today, from a position of growth and strength.”

To learn more about the university’s finances and new initiatives, News 88.7 sat down with Ludwick. Here are highlights from the conversation:

  • On finances: “Our goal, our opportunity really, is to to take this growth dynamic of the university — the opportunity for change — as we move forward to make the fiscal situation at the short term, as well as the long term, a very stable outlook for the university.”
  • On enrollment, with the Houston university seeing its two largest freshmen classes two years in a row:  “[That] sort of sets the tone for growth overall. But that’s at the undergraduate level and certainly, we’re excited about that. We think that this year’s census in the undergraduate population will result in an all-time high at the undergraduate level for students at the University of St. Thomas… We think it’s a little over 2,000 students.”
  • How enrollment fits into the financial picture: “Yes, there is a fiscal component to that. And we pay close attention to that and we want to be smart about it. The reality is we need to grow to serve our community and to meet our mission. And so that’s what we’ll do.”
  • On new online associate’s degrees: “We’re actually adding additional graduate degrees, too, and looking at our undergraduate program as well. But specific to the associate’s degree initiative, it really comes from our mission. What we wanted to do was provide a way for students to study online in some of the really high-demand skills level areas to provide them an entrée to good jobs and maybe even a way to whet their appetites for post-high school education.”
  • How new initiatives fit into the Catholic liberal arts university’s mission: “Well, they fit in very nicely. You know, sort of the core academic program of the university is one that is the most rigorous of any Catholic university in the country and, indeed, any university. That sets the foundation. That gives us the confidence, the ability to move into these other areas, assuring ourselves and our students that they can gain these additional sort of practical skills — workforce skill sets. But, at the heart of their education, at the understanding of who they are and how they fit in the world is this timeless understanding of a tradition that dates back to the very beginnings of higher education.”

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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