Insufficient funds halt Brite’s plans for expansion

Brite Divinity School has delayed breaking ground on a new academic building because of financial constraints, Brite’s president said.

Newell Williams, Brite president and professor of modern and American church history, said Brite is in the fifth year of a five-year capital campaign to raise funds for the construction of the Nell A. and W. Oliver Harrison building.

Brite has already raised more than $12 million in its capital campaign for the construction of the building, but Williams said the final cost of the building will be closer to $16 million.

Ground breaking for the building is slated for some time in 2010, Williams said, but that will only occur if Brite can raise the rest of the money necessary to construct the building.

“When we open the door to that building, we not only want it to be paid for, by gifts, not tuition.We want the operation of that building to be paid for,” Williams said.

Brite is funded solely by gifts and endowment, Williams said. It does not use students’ tuition payments for its funding because all of Brite’s students are graduate students and already probably owe college debt, Williams said.

Williams said Brite’s goal is keep the price of attending as low as possible. The normal load for a full-time student at the school is 9 to 12 credit hours per semester, according to the school’s catalog. A 12-hour course load in the 2009-2010 academic year costs $8,700, or $725 per credit hour, according to the catalog.

The maintenance of the building, possibly costing several hundred thousand dollars per year, is to be paid using Brite’s endowment, Williams said. The catch is having enough endowment to pay for the cost of continually operating the building, he added.

“We may need to raise another $4 million (to reach the $16 million target), and we need to do that before that building is up,” he said.

It is misleading to consider Brite short on funding thus far, Williams said.

However, the economic recession has hurt Brite as it relates to its financial goals for the building’s construction.

“We would’ve gotten to our goal faster if not for the economic downturn,” he said.