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John Brown University tops $156 million in fundraising

by Jaime Adame | September 27, 2019 at 3:00 a.m.
The Cathedral of the Ozarks on the campus of John Brown University is shown in this photo.

SILOAM SPRINGS -- A $156 million fundraising total over seven years sets up John Brown University for the future with 83 new endowed scholarships and additions to campus, including a computer science degree program set to begin next year, said Chip Pollard, the university's president.

School leaders described the total as what's believed to be the largest ever fundraising campaign for a private university in Arkansas. They announced the total at the start of celebration events for the 100-year anniversary of the non-denominational Christian university's founding in Siloam Springs.

Pollard said the school's educational philosophy is "head, heart, hand," which goes back to founder and the institution's first president, John Brown.

"We used to do dairy farms and had mechanics," Pollard said. "Now we're doing nursing, graphic design, engineering and computer science."

The single largest campaign gift of $6 million went to construction of a health education building to help start the nursing program, spokeswoman Julie Gumm said. The identity of the donor hasn't been disclosed.

The $156 million total exceeded the $125 million goal set for the university's Campaign for the Next Century. It includes more than $42 million to provide financial assistance to students, according to the university.

The university's previous fundraising campaign, Keeping Faith, raised $118 million, Jim Krall, vice president for university advancement, said.

Krall said the $156 million total includes $9.6 million in pledges and about $30 million in estate gifts.

"We were trying to raise money for the next century of JBU's existence," said Pollard, the university's president since 2004.

By enrollment, John Brown is the state's second-largest private university, behind Harding University, a Christian university in Searcy. Katie Clement, a Harding spokeswoman, declined to answer when asked about Harding University fundraising campaign totals.

Hendrix College, a private school in Conway, raised $101.3 million for a campaign ending in 2011 and, as of Thursday, had raised $103.1 million for an ongoing fundraising campaign, spokesman Rob O'Connor said.

John Brown this fall has 2,287 enrolled students, including 307 dual-enrolled high school students, a dip of about 6% compared with last fall, according to state Division of Higher Education preliminary data.

Most four-year universities in Arkansas also experienced enrollment declines, according to state data.

"We hit our enrollment goal for first year students this year, but we're slightly down in retention. So we're feeling some pressure on finances, for sure," Pollard said. The university this fall enrolled 395 new full-time undergraduate students, Gumm said.

Pollard said boosting scholarship dollars "is all about trying to make JBU more affordable for more families."

Private universities charge more for tuition -- John Brown's full year tuition is $26,458, compared to $15,136 at the University of Arkansas -- but Pollard said the school's graduation rates compares favorably to other schools. John Brown has a six-year graduation rate of 69%, according to federal data published at A December report published by the state Division of Higher Education lists a six-year graduation rate of 42.5% at the state's 10 public four-year universities.

The fundraising total includes $13 million for new endowed scholarships and to boost previously endowed awards, according to the university's announcement. Gumm said an additional $29.4 million is going to other scholarships. Out of $30.3 million in estate gifts, much of that will eventually go to student scholarships, Gumm said.

More than half of John Brown students arrive from outside Arkansas, Pollard said, describing the nursing program as an example of the university being "a net importer of talent" to Northwest Arkansas. Gumm said 28 students earned nursing degrees in spring 2018 and another 20 this spring.

About three out of four nursing graduates so far have started working in Northwest Arkansas, Pollard said.

"We hope to do that the same way with computer science," Pollard said.

The university received two gifts totalling $1.8 million to help establish the bachelor's degree program in computer science, Gumm said.

Other large gifts included $2 million from an undisclosed donor to establish the Charles Peer Endowed Chair in Visual Arts, a gift supporting faculty and named after a co-founder of the university's visual arts department.

New construction projects built with fundraising dollars include an engineering and art studio building, which features a woodworking area, a photography studio and an open layout for large and collaborative projects.

Krall said donations and gifts paid for about $15 million in residence hall renovation and some new apartment-style student housing. All new building construction is complete, Krall said.

"We built and renovated all these buildings with no debt," Krall said, adding that "we don't pass the cost on to students."

Pollard said tuition increases go to salaries, which make up more than 60% of the university's budget.

"The most difficult task I have as a president is how to balance affordability with paying faculty and staff fairly," Pollard said.

Fundraising goes toward helping with John Brown's non-payroll costs, Pollard said.

"What we've tried to do at JBU is pay for everything else, new buildings and endowment for new programs -- everything that you do to enhance quality -- we've tried to do through fundraising," Pollard said.

NW News on 09/27/2019

Print Headline: JBU tops $156 million in fundraising


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