This fall Abilene Christian University launched a new strategic plan detailing bold goals and vision for the next five years, including a possible medical school, increased research investments, a $1 billion endowment, and continued growth in enrollment and diversity of students and faculty/staff.
“As ACU emerges as a National University, we are in a strong position to deliver on a bold vision for the future,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president. “This plan details an ambitious path ahead for how we can best prepare students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. We want to offer students a life-changing experience in this formative time of life as they begin to discern their unique calling.”
ACU’s Board of Trustees set a broad vision and charged the senior administration to imagine what the future could hold for ACU with a focus on its Christ-centered mission. The Senior Leadership Team began the process in 2021 with several months of input sessions with key stakeholders from across the university. Under Schubert’s leadership and guided by Blair Schroeder, chief planning officer, the team crafted a plan with specific goals, strategies and tactics for the next five years.
The plan revolves around six pillars:
- Elevate ACU’s academic brand to that of a world-class, faith-based university.
- Provide a vibrant student experience that strengthens ACU’s commitment to spiritual formation and leverages ACU’s national leadership in student success.
- Promote an internal culture that celebrates every individual as created uniquely in God’s image.
- Provide a nationally competitive, Christ-centered athletics program that extends the university’s brand and propels ACU’s mission.
- Strengthen ACU’s financial foundation to aggressively pursue strategic opportunities.
- Develop ACU’s campuses through enhancements that will support our strategic objectives, facilitate growth and provide long-term stewardship of physical assets.
The first pillar’s objectives relate to academic strength and expansion in high-demand disciplines, including a feasibility study for a new health sciences center and the creation of three to five centers of academic excellence to serve as academic anchors (e.g. health sciences, allied health, physics and engineering, entrepreneurship and business). The plan also sets a goal to achieve Research 2 (R2) status in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. ACU was named to R3 status this year.
In the area of student experience, the goals revolve around mentoring, student success, spiritual formation and shaping the overall student body. Plans include growing total enrollment to 8,800 and improving retention and graduation rates.
The third pillar focuses on continuing to foster a diverse community, including increasing the diversity of the faculty body to 25%, maintaining a student body diversity rate of 40%, and improving diverse students’ retention and graduation rates.
Plans for ACU’s athletics program center around being nationally competitive and increasing ACU’s brand: consistent top-three finishes in the Western Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Cup, multiple teams or individuals competing in NCAA postseason play, a cumulative student-athlete GPA of 3.2, and a Christian leadership development program for coaches.
As higher education faces declining undergraduate enrollments and increasing financial pressure, ACU’s strategic plan includes ways to leverage an already-strong financial position to create flexibility and invest in the future. To that end, the plan’s goals include increasing ACU’s nearly $700 million endowment to $1 billion, focusing more heavily on tuition revenue from graduate students and online students, and increasing the annual alumni giving percentage.
The final pillar of the plan outlines the importance of facilities conducive to living, learning and innovating. Specific tactics include completion of ACU’s Freshman Village and other construction projects underway, such as the Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center; providing space for allied health programs; and exploring options for more branch campuses.
“This plan is designed as a compass by which we will track and measure progress over the next five years and beyond,” Schroeder said. “We’re envisioning how ACU can best meet the needs of students, parents, faculty and staff, while also considering the higher education landscape and needs of tomorrow’s workforce.”
— Wendy Kilmer
Nov. 1, 2022