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Published: 1/17/2003

Lourdes cuts housing plan, cites cash woes

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Facing unanticipated costs and a projected deficit of about $300,000 this year, leaders at Lourdes College today will unveil a five-year financial plan to its faculty and staff.

As part of the plan, the private Catholic college in Sylvania will put off its aim of housing students on campus and turn its attention instead to academics and increasing the college's enrollment. “Our plan over the foreseeable future does not include residential students,” President George Matthews said yesterday. “We have backed off that and focused on academic programs.”

Part of the impetus for the move was economic, college leaders said. “We have been hit, as every school has been, with major challenges: increases in pensions, insurance costs,” explained Martha Mewhort, chairman of the college's board of trustees.

Lourdes officials project a deficit this year, breaking even next year, and then having surpluses in the remaining years of the five-year plan.

Dr. Matthews said the college of 1,300 students will have to find ways to cut costs without affecting its academic mission. Its plans to go residential, however, have been delayed indefinitely. In 2001, the college bought Yankee Square Apartments for $837,000 and signed an agreement to lease the 38 units in Whitehall Apartments, both on Main Street in Sylvania, with the intention of housing students there by 2003.

Now, Dr. Matthews said the college could consider the possibility of divesting itself of those properties.

Part of the reason for that move was the projected cost of creating the necessary student services all at once. Additionally, hopes of joining NCAA Division III athletics have been delayed by a long waiting list for admittance, Dr. Matthews said.

Looking ahead, he said the college will work to grow by 300 students over the next five years, with some changes in its student mix along the way.

Lourdes relies on tuition for about 85 percent of its budget. The annual cost of attending the college for a full-time student is $13,700.

While full-time students make up only about 44 percent of the college's enrollment, Dr. Matthews said he hopes that will increase to 48 percent in five years. Graduate students, who now number only 2 percent of the college, should grow to 10 percent, he said. Part of that will come as the college's graduate programs in organizational leadership and education mature, he said. Both master's degree programs are new this academic year.

Even with the tough fiscal times, Ms. Mewhort said the atmosphere at the college remains energized. “I don't think it's disappointing,” she said. “I think there are so many other things going on that are positive.”



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