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The Ave Herald

Serving the community of Ave Maria, Florida


Ave Maria University Sets Aggressive Growth Plans

Ave Maria University had a good year in 2012, but things look even better in the future, President Jim Towey told faculty, staff and university supporters in an end-of-year message Wednesday.

Mr. Towey looked back on another year of significant change for the university – one in which there were a record number of students on campus and many new academic programs – and looked ahead to a goal of financial indendence from founder Tom Monaghan in 18 months and a projected enrollment of 1,750 by 2016 – double the number of students on campus for the fall, 2012 term.

"We had an unprecedented spike in enrollment," Mr. Towey said, with 200 more students in the fall term than in the previous term, bringing the total to 875. AMU added nine new majors and a new honors program, and significantly improved its retention rate going into the spring term.

Looking ahead, Mr. Towey said that interest in Ave Maria from high school seniors is increasing, with applications for admission next fall up 50% from this time a year ago. He forecasts a 17% increase in the size of the entering class in fall, 2013, with continuing steady increases leading to an entering class of about 600 in 2016.

The enrollment growth, combined with annual increases in tuition and room and board for the next three years, will produce operating surpluses that will enable AMU to increase financial aid, raise salaries for staff and faculty whose pay was frozen for the last few years, and increase funding for instruction by almost 60% by 2016.

The current campus facilities would be strained by the growth Mr. Towey projects, and he said that staff are developing plans to ensure that classrooms, offices, residence hall beds, parking spaces, cafeteria seating and student social space are sufficient to handle a doubling of the campus population.

The last year was also one that posed a number of other challenges. Ave Maria University drew national attention when Mr. Towey announced that the school would not comply with a mandate from the federal department of Health and Human Services that its employee health care plan provide free contraceptive services, and AMU sued the federal government claiming such an order is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's protections of religious liberty. Several other Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America, have since joined that legal effort.

AMU also lost two senior staff members, VP of Advancement Lou Traina and VP of Student Affairs Dan Dentino, and also parted company with its first head football coach, Barry Fagan. William Kirk, formerly with Notre Dame, was hired as the new VP of Student Affairs and Kevin Joyce took over as head football coach as well as Athletic Director. A search currently is under way for a new head of advancement, Mr. Towey said.

"I am confident," Mr. Towey said, "that with the grace of God, prayers of the Blessed Mother, and hard work of all of us, we can achieve our goals and advance our Catholic mission. "


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