Each of the work groups assessed our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, which we summarize here. Barry University is a success story. While we have grown and evolved into a complex comprehensive university, Barry continues to offer a “small college” atmosphere with a strong liberal arts and science curriculum, professional programs, caring environment and personalized educational opportunities from a dedicated faculty. Our staff and faculty are loyal and dedicated to the University and to individual student satisfaction and success. Our Adrian Dominican heritage, traditions and values provide a moral foundation and mission-driven focus to all members of the University community, with a commitment to pluralism and diversity. We have a diverse, multicultural undergraduate and graduate student body and enrollment growth has been solid. Our attractive main campus of 122 acres is located in a desirable geographic location, and we successfully offer additional programs at 44 convenient points of delivery and 16 sites throughout Florida. Barry provides a substantial information technology infrastructure to faculty, staff, and students across campuses and state-wide sites and a wide array of support systems to enhance learning, teaching and overall productivity. We are still small enough to be agile and flexible in responding to changes in the external environment.
With growth and complexity come challenges. Barry has a history of competition between schools for both resources and students that has led to poor collaboration and inefficiencies in areas such as program development and university support services for students. We do not have a systematic, commonly understood process to assess current academic programs or new program development, including increasingly important on-line programs, which leads to confusion, redundancy and inconsistent program quality. While our student population is growing, we continue to face the challenge of unsatisfactory retention results. The number of under-prepared students who come to Barry is in line with national trends for universities and deserving of specific attention. Enrollment growth has also led to space utilization issues across campuses. We are challenged to find more effective ways to incorporate our Catholic identity consistently across schools, programs, and daily operations, and clarify our commitment to diversity and our status as the most diverse university in the southeast. This diversity brings about challenges in programming, types of activities and services offered. Being a very open campus, safety is an ongoing issue of concern. The physical plant consists of a number of older buildings that are in need of repairs and upgrading. Similarly, aging computers and servers reduce productivity, interrupt technology based classroom instruction and lead to frustration among faculty, staff, and students. Issues of job security and relatively low compensation have led to low morale among some faculty and dissatisfaction among some staff. There is a perception of inconsistency in the implementation of administrative policies and procedures, a lack of an inclusive, collaborative and transparent decision-making structure. Finally, Barry is highly tuition-dependent and financially fragile.
Fortunately, the external environment presents us with many opportunities to excel. The demand for higher education in our region continues to grow and Florida’s state schools have not been able to meet this demand. We are well positioned to attract and serve many of these students. In addition, potential student populations from the Caribbean and Latin America continue to be attracted to Barry’s Catholic identity and multicultural environment. There are also significant opportunities for further outreach and connection with our surrounding communities. These interactions may come in the form of volunteer community service initiatives for students, academic service learning programs, student internships with local businesses, strategic partnerships with local businesses and service providers and invitations to the community to participate in on-campus academic programs and cultural events. In addition, we may be able to offer degree and non-degree programs to area professionals where we have strength and the potential student market is robust, such as the health professions. Barry is located in an emerging, global metropolitan area with many financial and cultural resources. We intend to reap great rewards from enhancing our connections with strategic business, government and cultural leaders. Likewise, Barry’s alumni base continues to grow and mature and has great potential for establishing additional community connections. Finally, Cyberspace provides new opportunities to reach students beyond the local market. Exploration of this opportunity may generate new funding streams and build on our existing reputation for quality without jeopardizing the small classroom academic environment for which Barry University is known and valued.
Along with embracing challenging opportunities, we must respond to external threats. Florida’s state schools are growing as fast as they can, new for-profit institutions are entering the South Florida marketplace, and community colleges are initiating four-year programs to attract more students. Many schools are investing heavily in the types of services, facilities and technology that are expected by today’s college student. On-line distance education programs proliferate and grow ever more effective and attractive to students. While students expect more from colleges and universities in the way of services, growing numbers of high school graduates enter college under-prepared for the rigors of college course-work, requiring increased levels of support and skill development. The rising cost of housing in Florida, in concert with the ability of other industries to pay higher salaries, will continue to challenge Barry to attract and retain the best faculty and staff. In addition, the condition of some neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of our main campus lessens Barry’s attractiveness. As a financially fragile institution, Barry is highly sensitive to the dwindling support for higher education from private, state and federal funding sources. This is especially challenging in a time when more and more families are finding it difficult to pay for tuition at independent institutions. Security restrictions on enrolling international students continue to impact universities. Finally, an unusually active hurricane forecast continues to threaten our operations.
The strategic planning process has presented us with a signal opportunity to respond to these environmental factors and to explore all possible avenues to enhance our academic, spiritual, interpersonal and financial well-being. This initiative led us to craft a new vision for the next five years to become a university community distinguished by Engaging the World through Transformative Catholic Higher Education.