by Debbonnaire Kovacs

By George Johnson, Jr. 
Director of Integrated Marketing and Public Relations, Oakwood University
Submitted Nov. 26, 2014
Originally published in Southern Tidings Nov 2014
Reprinted by permission (with slight edits)
 
Note: Once upon a time (in fact, within the youth of this writer), Adventist students could work their entire way through an Adventist academy and much of their way through and Adventist college. In the 70s, when I was at Mt. Vernon Academy in Ohio, we were already losing or selling businesses, and by the time my sons were of an age to go, I was informed that they were “only allowed” to work $1000’ worth per semester. Why? “Because we have to pay them. All that money comes from tuition.” Huh?? The whole point, in my opinion, was for the student’s work to bring in money to the school, not for there to be a circular self-payment system! In recent decades, this bleeding away of the industries we once had to support our schools has continued, in part because of poor management, and that often because pastors and teachers were running these businesses instead of business people running them. Tuitions have continued to skyrocket, and parents have hugely backed off from these institutions—sometimes for religious or philosophical reasons, but often because of simple money matters. Result: schools closing all over. This week we feature a guest article, reprinted from Southern Tidings, about a university that is reversing this trend. DLK]

You may see images of the Grand Opening here.
 
According to the 2012-2017 Oakwood University Strategic Plan, the Division of Financial Administration will secure the fiscal health of the University by the creation of non-tuition revenue by managing internal financial resources in harmony with the strategic mission of the institution, and by decreasing dependence on governmental sources of income through the recovery of industries appropriate for the 21st century. This priority, proposed by Leslie Pollard, Ph.D., D.Min., Oakwood University president, in his first University address on January 25, 2011, challenged the financial reality of Oakwood’s budget—a budget 60 percent of which is dependent on tuition and fees.
 
Oakwood University hosted the grand opening of its franchise business, Edible Arrangements ®, on September 29, 2014. Why did Oakwood’s administration decide to purchase an Edible Arrangements ® franchise? George Johnson sits with Leslie Pollard to find out why Oakwood decided to reestablish industries.
 
George Johnson: What type of industries did Oakwood operate long ago?
 
President Leslie Pollard: Oakwood operated a number of industries across the years. We had a laundry that serviced the Huntsville community and the Redstone Arsenal, and a dairy with cows that produced milk. Oakwood also operated a bakery and participated in horseshoeing and other industries.
 
When we think about it, Mrs. Ellen D. White believed that education should address the head, the heart, and the hand. The part of that triad that we have lost is the “hand” element—the skill-development responsibility of Christian education. By recovering industries, we can teach students those other kinds of skills. Maybe all of those skills will not be manual, but they can have other skills in the marketplace. School of Business students can apprentice to understand how to operate in a society where business daily takes place.
 
Johnson: Why has the administration decided to seek out other sources of income so that the University decreases its dependence on tuition and governmental sources of income?
 
Pollard: The first reason is that a part of our calling is to build in a base of industry that strengthens the ability of our institution to be self-reliant. When you look at our $50 million budget, about 60 percent of that budget actually comes from student tuition and fees. The rest comes from other sources of income: subsidies from churches, institutions, some investment income, etc. But, it is clear that the lion’s share of the budget is based upon student tuition and fees.
 
The other reason is because Mrs. Ellen G. White always envisioned that our schools would provide a base of industry through which they could also generate self-support in helping students matriculate through the institution. Her original vision was to help students work their way through school. Now back in the day when Mrs. White established this, the notion of four years as the normative time for graduation almost didn’t exist. But still, I know some institutions around the world who are working the Spirit of Prophecy model, and students are graduating within five to six years. Based on the Department of Education standards, four to six years is an acceptable window to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
 
Another reason we are doing industry recovery is because of the changing face of the HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] landscape. We face a number of factors today that make operating HBCUs particularly challenging. Title III funding has been cut across the board. Federal restrictions have been placed on student loans, meaning that the credit thresholds are now higher, thus parents need to be more credit-worthy to qualify for student loans.
 
Johnson: Why did Oakwood decide to purchase an Edible Arrangements ® franchise?
 
Pollard: As we looked at the mission of Oakwood, we needed to find a business opportunity that was mission congruent. In doing our research, we found that the Edible Arrangements ® Company actually works comfortably with our beliefs and teachings about health. Edible Arrangements ® provides fresh fruit bouquets purchased by customers and delivered to people they care for.
 
Edible Arrangements ® is one of the most effective and growing franchises in America. We have all the data that shows their rank and rating. In our owning a franchise, we will also use the vast marketing apparatus of the owners of Edible Arrangements ®. There is a system already in place that helps to market the business.
 
Johnson: How will the newly-generated income help Oakwood University?
 
Pollard: The new revenue will be used to grow and support the educational mission of Oakwood University. This includes scholarships for students’ matriculation and innovative academic program development. We also have opportunities for student employment.
 
Johnson: Can anyone place an order from any part of the country at your Edible location?
 
Pollard: Yes, by all means. Anyone can place an order by calling 256-881-7575. One of our associates will be glad to help place an order. The best thing about placing an order at our location is that you will be helping students with scholarships in the process. Our motto for our store is “Show love, support students!”