ACU has made plans to open a new campus in Dallas.
Many important details have yet to be decided, like its exact location or which graduate programs will offer on-campus classes rather than online. But even without knowing the details, ACU’s incentive and drive behind the plan is clear: money.
Universities across the country are seeing their primary revenue source, tuition, once a number that was hardly questioned, becoming a value decision by prospective students.
So now many colleges, ACU included, are opting to use the magic word, “diversify.”
They’re looking for new sources of revenue, otherwise they will have to continue to raise tuition. While the revenue coming from graduate programs offered online and in Dallas will technically still be made from tuition, it looks like it will be more profitable than the what ACU makes from students who pay to attend on the Abilene campus. In theory, online programs should have larger profit margins than programs run on expensive campuses with lots of overhead costs, like our beloved Abilene campus and it’s beautiful lawns.
The graduate school has already cranked out proposals for nine new programs (four have been approved while the others await accreditation). Moving the programs’ headquarters to the metroplex, even if they are online, allows ACU to tap into the huge young professional or mid-career market that is growing in DFW. AKA, a goldmine.
We can guess that this movement toward new revenue sources is also a driving factor behind the Endowment Office’s recent interest in developing the near 425 acres ACU owns down East North 10th Street. What interest does a university have in building suburbs, parks and Chipotles? More gold.
“If we do this, it is No. 1 to enhance the university experience, No. 2 to try to create revenue in the endowment from vacant land - we’re not earning anything on it right now,” said Kelly Young, chief financial officer. “So it creates new sources of revenue for the endowment that then will ultimately help the university. It’s very university-centric.”
While ACU is still a non-profit and shouldn’t raise revenue for revenue’s sake, it’s wise to keep cost-effective, Christian higher education our ultimate goal. If online courses mean lower tuition, then diversify onward, ACU.