The Erskine College and Theological Seminary Board of Trustees met last Thursday for their second meeting of the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The agenda for this meeting had two primary items according to Board Chairman Ron Vigus. First, trustees heard a report and reviewed the 2014-15 financial audit, which was completed in late August after the last board meeting. Second, President Kooistra and senior administration reported on the recent visit of the SACSCOC special committee.
With these two items, the trustees continued to provide oversight in achieving the goals of the two-year financial stability plan implemented last year, Vigus said. Greg Griffin with the audit firm CapinCrouse LLP was on hand to walk the trustees through the audit.
Greg Haselden, senior vice president for finance and facilities and board treasurer, said the 2014-15 audit confirmed that Erskine achieved or exceeded its goals for 2014-15. The only item to fall short of the 2014-15 financial plan was investment income in the endowment, which was lower than expected due to a market downturn in June 2015. Contributing to these positive results, Haselden said, were an increase in net tuition revenue, better than expected student retention, better than expected giving to the Erskine Annual Fund, and expense reductions across the institution.
“These are the first steps toward securing Erskine’s sustainability and growth,” Vigus said. “We understand and appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that produced these positive results and we thank God for the many blessings that He has bestowed on Erskine during the year.”
These results provide momentum in several major categories vital to Erskine’s continued financial health outlined by the board and President Kooistra last year, which are: 1) reduced dependence on the endowment; 2) improved net tuition revenue, 3) improved giving to the Erskine Annual Fund, and; 4) an overall increase in net unrestricted assets.
In his President’s Report, Dr. Kooistra told trustees that the second year of the two-year plan is off to a good start, with the college welcoming the third largest incoming class in school history. The Erskine Annual Fund is also ahead of last year’s results at the end of October.
Kooistra also updated the trustees on the recent visit of a special committee from Erskine’s regional accreditor, SACSCOC, in which the 2014-15 financial audit was also the primary focus. He reported that the visit went very well and he felt encouraged by the tone of the committee’s comments as they completed their visit.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brad Christie said, “The visiting committee was quite pleased with the progress we’ve made in just one year of our two-year financial stability plan.” In its official report to Erskine following up the visit, the committee gave no additional recommendations. According to Christie, “that is very good news.”
An Erskine delegation will be meeting with the Compliance and Reports Committee at the annual SACSCOC meeting in December. The results of that meeting will determine if further monitoring is required by SACSCOC.
The trustees also made progress on Chairman Vigus’s broader yearlong agenda of pursuing active board education and development focused on improving board effectiveness. The topics this time were focused on financial oversight and training that is required of all trustees, faculty, staff, and students this year regarding Federal Title IX requirements and Erskine’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures. “Our focus is to strengthen the board’s effectiveness by educating trustees on their responsibilities and developing the infrastructure that the board needs to do its job,” Vigus noted.
As has become the custom for the past several meetings, the trustees began the day with an extended time of prayer and heard from students who shared their stories of personal and spiritual growth at Erskine.