Improved debt rating, new leadership, accreditation, transfer-friendly programs point to bright future at Benedictine

May 9, 2017

Lisle, Illinois ~ The 2016-2017 academic year has been one of positive growth at Benedictine University and its branch campuses in Mesa, Ariz., and Springfield, Ill., which portends well for the future of the 130-year-old institution.

Reflecting the upward direction of the University was the recent decision by S&P Global Ratings to revise its outlook to “stable” on the Illinois Finance Authority’s existing revenue debt issued for Benedictine University and affirm the “BBB” rating on the debt. Additionally, S&P Global Ratings assigned its “BBB” long-term rating to the authority’s series 2017 revenue bonds, also issued for the University.

The stable outlook reflects the S&P’s expectation that Benedictine will continue to have growing enrollment from the graduate level and the Mesa campus, and continued positive operations going forward. In addition, the business information giant expects to see the University’s available resources remain at current levels or increase, and does not anticipate any additional debt.

“The ‘BBB’ rating reflects our view of Benedictine’s enterprise profile which we assessed as strong, characterized by its long history of operations, three campuses including one in the growing area of Mesa, Ariz., the transition of the Chicago campus from a commuter campus to a regional university, and a growing online presence with the School of Graduate, Adult and Professional Education online program,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Sean Lacy.

Benedictine University received more good news from The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which in March affirmed Benedictine’s accreditation through 2026-2027 after an intense Comprehensive Quality Review and multiple visits to the University’s sites in Illinois, Arizona and Asia.

The HLC is an independent corporation and one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the 19-state North Central region, serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning.

“Our faculty and staff have done tremendous work to advance the University’s standards of excellence,” said Benedictine University President Michael S. Brophy, Ph.D., M.F.A. “Benedictine has once again distinguished itself in our sector.”

Brophy, who is completing his second year as Benedictine president, named several new top administrators at the University, including Edward G. Robinson, vice president of Admissions and Financial Aid; James E. Payne, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs; Leonard A. Bertolini, vice president of Development; Miroslava Krug, chief financial officer and vice president of Administration and Finance; and Paula Norby, Ed.D., dean of the University’s Mesa branch campus.

Robinson has more than 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs and enrollment services and most recently served as executive dean of Student Affairs at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Wis. Payne comes to Benedictine after serving as dean of the J. Whitney Bunting College of Business at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Ga.

Norby has nearly 30 years of higher education experience and was most recently interim dean of instruction for Mohave Community College in Kingman, Ariz. Bertolini is an accomplished fundraising professional who served for five years as vice president for University Advancement at Lewis University in Romeoville. Krug came to Benedictine by way of Roosevelt University, where she served as senior vice president for Finance and Administration and chief financial officer.

In January, Brophy announced the formation of a public advisory group, the President’s Planning Advisory Committee (PPAC), which is composed of national CEOs, presidents, city leaders and respected and influential members of the communities Benedictine serves.

“We are grateful to each member who has committed to serving on this committee to offer their unique professional insights toward making Benedictine University a top-choice institution for our diverse student population,” Brophy said.

Committee members were chosen because of their expressed belief in Benedictine’s mission to provide a values-based education to the community, and their willingness to advocate for the University in support of implementing the BenU2020 strategic plan.

The BenU2020 strategic plan defines the most pressing goals that the University seeks to accomplish throughout the course of the next fi¬ve years, and focuses on improving recruitment and retention as well as strengthening the financial position of the University. The plan also provides a roadmap to raise the University’s academic profile by integrating high-impact learning techniques and a learner-focused approach in all programs.

One of the biggest improvements at Benedictine will take place this fall when the University, acting upon the recommendations of the president’s Strategic Enrollment Planning Team, institutes new, transfer-friendly degree pathways. These pathways will provide community college graduates with a reasonable degree completion path within four semesters.

Other initiatives aimed at transfer students include a summer transfer bridge program, expedited transfer credit evaluation, expanded recognition of community college coursework, improved communication with community colleges, and competitive pricing and financial aid. Students who wish to explore transferring to Benedictine may now also utilize Transferology – an online transfer equivalency program that houses thousands of articulations from institutions across the state and country and provides instant information on how a course will help complete a degree at Benedictine.

“Benedictine University is setting the stage to become a transfer institution of choice poised to be successful in attracting and serving all transfer students,” Brophy said.

Traditional freshman programs have also been restructured in order to validate the experiences of highly qualified students and help make Benedictine a first-choice school for high school seniors. Beginning summer 2017, new award structures for AP credit, International Baccalaureate and dual coursework will be accepted and in the fall the Seal of Biliteracy will complement a student’s hard work and success.

The University has also hired 18 new faculty members for the fall – 16 on the Lisle campus and two in Mesa. The new faculty in Lisle will help the University improve faculty interactions with learners to support retention, academic success and recruitment, while the new faculty in Mesa will help support the campus’ increasing enrollment.

“It has been a transformative time for the University, and what we want to do now across all platforms and all programs is to strengthen recruitment, retention and fundraising,” Brophy said.

BenU continues to be a leader in values-based education rooted in the Catholic and Benedictine traditions. Its diverse student body is encouraged to be thought leaders who contribute to the greater good.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

Institutional Marketing and Communications

Ryan Blackburn
(630) 829-6070
rblackburn@ben.edu