Letter to UTS Alumni/ae and Friends
- by Dr. Hugh Spurgin, President, UTS
Greetings from UTS! The purpose of this letter is to update you on recent developments at the UTS, particularly our e-learning initiative and also a decision of our Board of Trustees regarding our Barrytown campus.
UTS Goes Global with Online Education
As many of you may be aware, our Founder was a great believer in online education and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) has been encouraging UTS to develop online learning programs for our American and worldwide movement. We conducted market surveys of FFWPU’s international, European and American leadership in 2015-16 which indicated interest as well as an online survey of U.S. FFWPU membership. This spring, we began an intensive investigation of online platforms or Learning Management Systems (LMS), and in June selected CANVAS. CANVAS is a state-of-the-art LMS that is also used by the University of Bridgeport.
In July we began integrating CANVAS with our student information system, and this week our first two online courses went live, “Unification Apologetics” taught by Dr. Tyler Hendricks and “Divine Principle in Depth” taught by Dr. Andrew Wilson. We offered attractive, introductory scholarships for the initial courses, circulated a “UTS Online” brochure, and included additional information on our uts.edu website. I wrote several articles for the UTS Newsletter and spoke to various groups and individuals. In essence, UTS has compressed a process that would normally take up to three years into several months.
I’m pleased to report that currently 26 students are enrolled in Dr. Wilson’s course and 18 students are taking Dr. Hendricks’ course. In addition, four more students have registered to take an online course. We will offer two additional credit-bearing, online courses next semester and four more the following year which will total 8 courses or 24 credits, equivalent to half of the M.A. in Religious Studies degree program. I hope that you will support this eLearning initiative, which represents a new era in UTS education. If there is interest, we will offer additional courses in 2018.
The Barrytown Campus
For the past 18 months, in several written reports and during an alumni meeting broadcast from NYC, I have been emphasizing the financial problem at our Barrytown campus. Simply stated, UTS cannot afford the expenditures required to manage the property and has been dependent upon the sponsoring church’s support to meet the annual, property deficit, which for FYs 2015-16 and 2016-17 has been in excess of $450,000, or nearly $40,000 a month.
This is overwhelming for a small school that no longer has a resident student body on the Barrytown campus. In short, the Barrytown property has become a liability, not an asset. Funds spent for the upkeep of the property take away from UTS being able to provide a strong academic program, which is our primary focus. Our needs include providing good learning environments, purchasing quality equipment for a strong online program, engaging quality young faculty and staff, and giving scholarships to outstanding students.
Last year, I wrote that UTS is not limited to one campus and the future for UTS is in metropolitan areas where people live, work and study. I subsequently wrote that to prosper financially in these really tough times, UTS needs to position itself as an entrepreneurial, urban seminary with traditional classes and e-learning programs that rely on creative modes of delivery. Our sponsoring church has provided financial support to UTS far in excess of other seminaries, but that level of support is not endless and has been reduced substantially. Its annual contributions to UTS declined by 25% in 2017 and will likely continue to decrease in 2018.
Our UTS Co-Founder and American FFWPU leaders have exhorted organizations associated with FFWPU to become self-sufficient. This includes UTS. The handwriting is on the wall. Our alma mater can no longer rely on the same level of large grants from our sponsoring church, and contributions from other donors recently have been minimal. UTS must turn its property into an asset that generates funds to maintain its financial viability and to succeed in its mission to provide theological education to students worldwide.
Our administration has been actively searching for partners, who are interested in developing the property in line with our goals of:
Yet, property development will require finding a partner who possesses the huge amount of financial resources that will need to be invested in a 90-year old building that is expensive to maintain and requires many, costly, large-scale capital improvements. After more than two years, we have been unable to find such a wealthy partner who is willing to invest enormous amounts of money in upgrading and maintaining the property.
After considering these matters, the Board of Trustees, which has fiduciary responsibility, passed a resolution at its meeting on October 9, directing the administration to list the Barrytown property for a full or partial lease via a multiple listing service (MLS). The Board indicated that it is willing to consider a variety of different options.
I will keep you informed of developments and ask for your prayers and support as we pursue the direction from our Board to ensure that our Seminary remain a financially viable institution. I have every confidence that UTS will continue to fulfill its mission of providing intellectual leadership, bridging religious and cultural divides, and providing exceptional educational tools for success in ministry and professional life.