A History of Overcoming Challenges

President Greg Christy


Northwestern's history is replete with stories of God leading the institution through challenges. In fact, the very founding of Northwestern Classical Academy was delayed several years because a grasshopper infestation in the 1870s thwarted a plan to use farmland rent to begin a school.

During the Great Depression, as Northwestern Junior College struggled to pay faculty, President Jacob Heemstra requested funding from the Reformed Church in America and instead received a letter recommending that the institution close temporarily. In 1949 the denomination granted Northwestern permission to offer a four-year curriculum, but the resolution was passed by only two votes.

Today Christian colleges like Northwestern are facing a number of threats, including intense competition for students, a difficult economy and immense societal changes.

Despite these challenges, Northwestern is blessed to be financially strong. Indexes comparing our fiscal health with that of private colleges in three key peer groups all rank NWC above the 75th percentile. Our endowment is robust at nearly twice the national median per student ($35,950 per student compared to the national median of $19,020). And our institutional debt per student is exceptionally low at around $4,000 per student; many of our peers carry more than seven times that.

While our overall financial health is enviable, we nonetheless face some shortfalls within our operating budget. We have been working to address this problem with increased undergraduate enrollment, but the declining pool of students in our primary recruiting areas makes reaching our goals very challenging.

Last December the Board of Trustees charged the administration to address our operating budget challenges over the next three years. We began a right-sizing process of making reductions in some areas in order to invest in others. In July we ended a thorough process of determining strategic—yet painful—reductions of programs and personnel.

Two majors have been eliminated: journalism and music ministry. Returning students enrolled in these programs will be able to complete their majors. By 2016–17 we will have reduced the equivalent of eight full-time employees. Most of those cuts were made to positions that are currently unfilled.

Northwestern is a close community. Our faculty and staff love this place and our students, and we care deeply for one another. Naturally, this has made what we needed to do painful. However, I know this community's resilience and am confident we will emerge from this process positioned to thrive. I am comforted by Scriptures like Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

In all these things, we covet your prayers. Please pray for those colleagues who leave our community, that God would lead them to fulfilling new opportunities. And pray that we will remain steadfastly committed to our mission as a Christian academic community.

President Greg Christy

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