Where does the money come from?
The Office of Development and University Relations and the Office of Admissions are two pillars on which the University of Dallas stands financially. According to UD’s Form 990, a financial report submitted by not-for-profit and nonprofit organizations, contributions and program services are both major sources of revenue, although income from the Office of Admissions’ activities far exceeds that of the Office of Development.
All contributions — more commonly referred to as philanthropic support — are handled by the Office of Development and University Relations. Austin Westervelt-Lutz, the assistant vice president for development, explained that there are two types of philanthropic support: annual giving and major gifts.
Annual giving funds the university’s operating budget, which includes anything from scholarship support to facilities. Appeals for this type of philanthropic support are not mass-produced spam emails but are rather crafted to target specific audiences.
Westervelt-Lutz explained: “We work closely with our alumni leadership to develop the content and messaging that would most deeply resonate with our alumni. For example, we work very closely with members of our National Alumni Board. We work with recruited class agents to represent each class and work to really have more of a peer influence on philanthropic support.”
Each fiscal year, which runs from June 1 through May 31, the Office of Development sends out a number of appeals that go out to alumni, parents, friends, etc. and are tailored to those audiences.
Although these appeals do bring in contributions, their purpose is broader than merely raking in dough. Ultimately, Westervelt-Lutz and his team seek to invite alumni to participate in the wider UD community.
“The idea at the end of each of those is to engage those folks and bring them closer in relation to the University of Dallas. So, yes, our goal is ultimately to raise money, but it’s not transactional,” said Westervelt-Lutz.
Major gifts are the other type of philanthropic support UD receives. These donations are more project-oriented, such as donations for the erection of a new building or statue, or the creation of a new scholarship.
“For major gifts, the ‘ask’ is typically more tailored to a specific topic or purpose. For example, I’m working with an [alumni] couple who are interested in establishing a new endowed scholarship. They would then dictate the terms of the scholarship and fund that scholarship themselves. That conversation is obviously going to be all about what are the stipulations on the scholarship, what are their preferences on who might be awarded that scholarship, what’s the timing for their payment. It’s just a very different conversation,” Westervelt-Lutz said.
Many of these scholarships are available specifically for students attending Rome. “[M]any students are funded by Rome scholarships, and thankfully there’s been a significant increase in available Rome Scholarship money in recent years.” said Dr. Peter Hatlie, vice president and dean/director of the Rome Program.
The Office of Development works closely with Hatlie to procure and allocate donations for the Due Santi campus.
Hatlie spoke of past and present attempts at fundraising for the Rome campus. “For the very successful ‘Rome Expansion and Renewal Project (2016-2018)’ we raised over $2 million for the Rome Campus, and for that we drew up a project first, made a promotional video and other publicity materials in support of it, and then sought donations for this campaign by phone, letter, email and personal meetings,” said Hatlie.
From 2017 to 2020, an annual “Due Santi with Love” giving day, which honored the “due santi,” St. Peter and St. Paul, procured approximately $150,000 to refurbish the library and one of the classrooms on the Due Santi campus.
Recently, a campaign was launched to honor outgoing Due Santi campus chaplain Msgr. Thomas Fucinaro with a sacred statue, which was funded by approximately $30,000.
In relation to donations to the Due Santi campus, Westervelt-Lutz emphasized the responsibility the Office of Development has to honor the wishes of their donors. “We cannot take money that goes towards the Irving campus and use it for Rome. It goes into a fund that is named and routed through the accounting system to the appropriate account manager, and if we were to not do that, we would be out of bounds,” said Westervelt-Lutz.
For major gifts, more responsibility rests on Development to proactively report certain data to donors, particularly when a contractual agreement has been signed. For instance, if a donor funds a scholarship, they might be provided with information about the recipients of the scholarship.
“The folks in this office on this team have a high level of accountability to make sure we honor the donors’ wishes and can demonstrate and prove that, and also that we’ve done right by the university,” said Westervelt-Lutz.
In terms of total donors and total dollars, alumni of the Constantin College of Liberal Arts contribute the most philanthropic support to UD. This is partly due to the sheer volume of students that have graduated from Constantin as opposed to the Braniff Graduate School or the College of Business, but also partly due to an overemphasis on undergraduate donations. Only undergraduate donations count towards colleges’ alumni participation for the US News & World Report rankings.
“Because of that report and because of those rankings, there is an emphasis, or an overemphasis, on undergraduate, so Constantin, alumni participation,” said Westervelt-Lutz. UD’s ranking impacts the university’s perceived strength by external foundations that might consider funding the university, the value of any degree earned from the university, and the university’s overall standing among colleges and universities.
In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the university’s goal for philanthropic support was 5.1 million dollars by May 31, 2022. This goal was surpassed and the university raised 15% more in philanthropic support than in the previous fiscal year. The new, more ambitious goal is to raise 5.4 million dollars in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. However, although this is impressive progress, the university is primarily funded by tuition.
UD’s Form 990 shows that in the fiscal year ending in May 2020, 89.4% of the university’s revenue was provided by program services, while 7.6% came from contributions. In the fiscal year ending in May 2019, program services accounted for 90.9% of UD’s revenue and contributions accounted for 5.3%.
This ratio of revenue from program service to revenue from contributions has remained relatively consistent over the past decade, with the exception of years where the sale of assets — 2011, 2016 — or other revenue — 2018 — impacts the figures.
“Naturally, such a high dependance [sic] on tuition for university operations is not good. It puts a lot of pressure on the admissions team. They all take their jobs very seriously knowing that the faculty and staff depend on their success for funding. President Sanford is committed to increasing our fundraising efforts to alleviate some of the pressure on tuition funding,” said Dr. John Plotts, executive vice president.
The incoming freshman classes in the past two academic years have been the largest in the university’s history. “The year before last was our largest class ever and that reached over 500 before it melted back below. Last year, we got up to 438 before melting back below that,” said Carey Christenberry, director of admissions.
The target enrollment for the fall semester of 2023 is in line with the enrollment from the last two classes. “We hope to have 450 freshmen and 50 transfer students this fall along with a stable graduate program enrollment,” said Plotts.
Christenberry indicated that these rising enrollment numbers are expected to steadily increase in the near future; however, there is every intention of keeping UD a smaller school. “Our president wants to expand our freshman class,” he said. “There’s no goal to expand to 1000, but there is a goal to continue that incremental improvement every year so that we can get somewhere.”
Due to UD’s reliance on tuition for revenue, budget concerns partly influence enrollment projections and goals. “Our projected three year revenue budget helps guide these goals along with a number of other strategic priorities,” said Plotts.
Christenberry described it as such: “There is obviously a formula for UD needs each student to pay X amount of dollars in order for us to be able to meet all our obligations, paying professors, turning on the lights, those kinds of things.”
However, Christenberry is not a number-oriented person, but a more people-oriented person, as anyone who has had him as their admissions counselor can attest. “I’m less number-driven than I am student-driven. Students are my priority and helping them choose the path that is best for them is the priority,” said Christenberry. “From a practical standpoint, we have to get numbers. From a philosophical standpoints, we’re here to work with students and families and to help them the best we can and be good resources for them.”
Although the number of incoming freshmen has increased in the past few years, this increase has not been at the expense of the academic qualifications needed for admittance into UD.
“Our acceptance rate remains fairly unchanged. Our admissions standards have remained unchanged for the last 10 years,” said Plotts. “With COVID we have not had the benefit of SAT or ACT scores on some of our students so that measurement has been absent. In the absence of standardized test scores, high school GPA and type of high school attended (along with essays and other application materials) are the primary evaluative sources used by the admissions team.”
Acceptance rate is a difficult number to calculate, Christenberry explained. Depending on whether or not you are counting incomplete applications, UD’s acceptance rate is somewhere in the ballpark of 45% to 65%. The freshman class size has not increased because UD’s acceptance rate has increased, but rather because the total number of applicants has increased.
Plotts spoke to why UD’s total number of applicants is growing: “UD’s name recognition is growing. The quality of our education and how different it is from most other universities is a contributing factor. We also have a highly personalized approach to student recruitment and have been blessed with an excellent staff over the last several years. The fact that we held in person classes during COVID as safely as possible was a contributing factor to the fall 2021 class.”
Despite this reliance on students’ tuition to fund the university, UD’s ability to provide scholarships to its students has not been compromised. “Actually, the reverse is often true,” said Plotts. “In order to make UD affordable for many of our students we increase financial aid so they can attend. If UD is so expensive that very few can attend then the tuition revenue decreases.”
In fact, the three highest freshman academic achievement awards, the Trustee Scholarship, the President’s Scholarship and the Provost’s Scholarship, have recently increased to $32,000/year, $28,000/year, and $25,000/year respectively.
Furthermore, the requirements for need-based financial aid have been relaxed. “Some students that are in a higher EFC [Estimated Family Contribution] are going to be able to get more financial aid from us this year than they did last year,” said Christenberry.
Inflation has partly triggered these increases in merit-based and need-based financial aid. “When tuition goes up, there really is a strong desire to try to balance the needs of the students with the needs of the university,” said Christenberry.
This increase in financial aid is often funded by donors, particularly those who create endowed scholarships. In this case, the Office of Development and the Office of Admissions work in tandem to fund the University of Dallas and its mission.