Monday, December 12, 2011

Money Monday

Most of the time, tensions between institutions are about some combination of power, ideology, control, and politics.  But all the time, they are about money.  The OBU-BGCO relationship is no different.  On Mondays, this blog will examine the financial implications of the BGCO's $2.5 million annual subsidy for OBU.

Frankly, I am most intrigued and upset by the non-financial parts of this arrangement: the cheapening of OBU's great liberal arts tradition, the shameful treatment of insufficiently fundamentalist faculty, the authoritarian culture, etc.  But in many ways, the heart of the matter is financial.  I am open to suggestions about where my logic and rhetoric on this issue could be improved.  The argument I want to make is two-fold.  First, the BGCO could be a lot more efficient, effective, and smart if it spent the $2.5 million in other ways.  And second, OBU could find ways to get by without the annual cash infusion from the BGCO.

According to BGCO financial projections, the Cooperative Program sends 40% of receipts to the SBC to fund missionaries, the six SBC seminaries, and the religious right Richard Land's office.  Sixty percent of CP receipts stay in Oklahoma.  Of that amount, 17% goes to OBU.  OBU receives 3.5 times more than both the Baptist Village Communities and the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.  It receives more than the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at every other Oklahoma university combined.  It receives nearly three times the total church planting budget.  OBU represents a huge financial strain on the BGCO and cripples its ability to fund vital missions and ministries.  Every year, students don't get evangelized, churches don't get planted, and orphans and seniors aren't adequately housed because OBU's subsidy eats up such a huge portion of the Cooperative Program's budget.

Maybe this would be okay if OBU desperately needed the funds.  But it doesn't.  OBU has an endowment of $80 million.  It raises $40 million a year on its own.  Whereas other CP ministries would have to shut down without CP funds, OBU would go right on operating.  Sure, it would have to restructure its finances, but OBU is not nearly as dependent on CP funds as the BGCO's other mission and ministry areas.

How could OBU operate without the BGCO's millions?  Well, since enrollment allegedly now exceeds 1,850, a tuition increase in the neighborhood of $1,300 would close the gap all by itself.  (And OBU would still be a "best value" college by the national magazines that rate such things.)  Short of that, OBU could temporarily dip into its endowment during the transition period.  It could seek funding from other Baptist bodies that are not so blatantly at odds with liberal arts education.  Sure, I concede that replacing 6% of any institution's revenue stream is a challenge.  But in the present economic climate, public and private universities all over the nation are doing it every day.

Baptist Building elites love controlling OBU.  But unless messengers really care more about maintaing power over an institution than doing actual ministry, they will easily find ways to spend the $2.5 million.  Our challenge will be to figure out how OBU can make up this lost revenue, especially since the BGCO owns the buildings and grounds.  Over time, we'll study what other institutions have done and we'll develop creative solutions of our own.  Until then, we'll have to cash that annual BGCO check... and sell our soul in the process.

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