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Teague: Maintaining excellence is challenge for 1990s

This article appeared in the Winter 1990 issue of ACU Today.

By William J. Teague

As the year 2000 approaches, ACU faces a difficult challenge: to maintain and increase its level of academic excellence at a time of decreasing state and federal funding for students, a shrinking pool of freshmen, and a decreasing number of qualified faculty.

One national education writer recently reflected that a tidal wave of mediocrity has washed over American higher education. A Gallup poll in Spring 1990 affirmed that three out of four adults still believe college education is worth as much as it costs or more. But when respondents were asked to grade colleges, only 6 percent of Americans age 18 or older rated colleges an “A” – and 45 percent said the colleges deserved a “C” or less.

ACU will not settle for mediocrity. This university has endeavored for more than eight decades to provide the highest quality liberal arts education for its students. We will not compromise our commitment to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

To maintain this commitment, however, we must overcome a number of challenges, including:

  • A serious nationwide faculty shortage. The faculty shortages predicted to hit during the mid-’90s already have materialized for many colleges and universities, according to one national survey. Thirty-seven percent of administrators report the quality of applicants for faculty positions has declined, and three in 10 institutions have widened their pool of applicants to persons with non-academic experience.
  • Affordability for students. ACU is committed to providing an affordable education to its students without jeopardizing the quality of its academic programs. However, as federal and state funding lessens and the burden on families grows heavier, the university will continue to seek more scholarships for students and more funding for first-rate programs and personnel.
  • Shrinking applicant pool. The number of high school graduates is not expected to reach the 1989 level of 2.7 million again until 1997, and some schools may be forced to reduce staff, defer maintenance and freeze salaries. Bright students can pick and choose among the top schools in America, and ACU must offer the best programs, teachers and scholarships to continue to attract academic leaders.

Although there are fewer freshmen, a growing number of adults are returning to school after working in the job force for several years or raising a family. We must target these non-traditional students and provide courses they need at times they can take them.

As an immediate challenge, this university and its friends and alumni need to tell Christian young people from across America about ACU. Through youth ministers, entertainment activities, one-on-one visits, phone calls and more, we must make Christian teens aware of the quality and excellent reputation of ACU’s academic programs.

Academics are of vital importance at ACU, but the central focus of this university is and will continue to be the spiritual emphasis provided through Christian faculty and staff, daily assembly, devotionals and Bible class requirements.

The challenges are great. But now is not the time to cut our academic quality or to stand still while other universities keep up with advances in ideas and technology. When drastic changes occur in our world, people turn to universities to prepare them to face the new opportunities.

ACU must not shrink from the call for excellence. Mediocrity seems inexpensive until it costs you everything.

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