Dear Bulldog community,
We are in a period of rapid change in higher education across the United States. But we have a plan to emerge stronger—to achieve the full potential of what our University is capable of at a time when our students and society most need what we do best.
In the last decade, there has been an approximate 10 percent nationwide decline in the number of high school graduates entering colleges and universities. This precedes predicted smaller high school graduating classes of 2026 and beyond. In addition, a multitude of other pressures have emerged in recent years: the pandemic’s impact on society, a mental health crisis, inflation, widening political divisions, and growing public scrutiny related to disinformation around the value of a college degree.
We are Bulldogs—built to adapt and respond. The work we have before us demands that we make difficult decisions but brings with it the opportunity to create a brighter future.
As we navigate the challenges ahead, what remains unwavering is our commitment to our mission—to provide an exceptional learning environment that prepares students for meaningful personal lives, professional accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship. This commitment has resulted in impressive outcomes for our students. Last year, more than 97 percent of our undergraduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school six months after graduation, with median earnings that were $10,000 higher than graduates of any other Iowa institution. What’s more, these outcomes have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal in its 2024 College Pulse Rankings and by The New York Times as a top U.S. college with the greatest economic diversity.
Leaders across the University (faculty, staff, administrators, and Board members) have been working together to create a plan that is grounded in our mission and builds upon our 143-year reputation for academic excellence. This plan includes adjustments to our curriculum, a review of our academic programs, and strategies for academic innovation and increasing enrollment—all to ensure a prosperous future for our students.
Details on our path forward, including information on our current financial state, are outlined below. We remain committed to transparency throughout this process and will provide updates to ensure the University community is engaged and informed.
A focus on financial sustainability
Drake University has an incredibly strong and stable balance sheet with low debt in comparison to our assets. The University’s total assets are $568 million, including $253 million of endowment investments, and we have low debt (less than $50 million) in relation to those assets.
Our opportunity for financial improvement is within our annual operating expenses. We must align our operating budget with ongoing enrollment challenges, both our own and what we see across higher education. Our goal is to reach a balanced operating budget by July 2025. With the work that has already taken place to achieve cost savings this fiscal year (July 1, 2023–June 30, 2024), we are planning for additional cost reductions of 5.1% during fiscal year 2025 (July 1, 2024–June 30, 2025).
Reviewing academic programs and streamlining curriculum
As the higher education landscape evolves, so are the interests and preferences of current and future students, which is why periodic review and revisions to our academic programs are necessary to ensure we are meeting our students’ needs.
In addition to reviewing our curriculum, we are conducting academic program reviews. As part of this process, faculty and administrators are working together to identify opportunities to achieve significant savings. While the majority of savings will come from reducing expenses in administrative areas and reduced reliance on adjuncts and visiting instructors, academic programs will be reviewed to determine selective reductions with the goal of ensuring that Drake University remains a thriving, mission-driven institution well into the future.
Program review recommendations will be communicated to faculty on March 1, followed by a 30-day period where faculty will have the opportunity to respond with feedback. Final decisions will be made by the Drake Board of Trustees and communicated to campus in late April. Students in affected programs will receive communications with information and options that will allow them to progress toward timely degree completion.
New revenue generating strategies: Academic Innovation and Expanding Access
We embrace innovation to meet students’ needs in a changing world and live out our commitment to transform lives and strengthen communities. We are investing in new programs such as the recently developed artificial intelligence major, cybersecurity minor, and accelerated nursing program, among others. These new pathways ensure Drake students are prepared to graduate ready to make a difference in the world.
We are also redefining the practice and purpose of a university by empowering individuals with diverse identities to enhance their lives and the lives of others through education. This includes several programs that reach more prospective learners and empower individuals: Crew Scholars, John Dee Bright College, the Business Accelerator program, and Drake Online.
While this is a challenging time for higher education, it is not the first time we have been faced with adversity, and in every instance, Drake University has emerged stronger. I am confident that the work we are doing now honors the strengths and 143-year history of Drake University and will set the stage for the next 143 years and beyond—and boldly secure Drake’s position as one of the nation’s premiere private institutions, forever committed to transforming lives and strengthening communities.