Butler is placing a $250 million stake that the future isn't just about undergrads
Butler University is kicking off a $250 million campaign that aims to increase enrollment beyond undergraduate students, invest in science education, and reach out more to the community.
The fundraising campaign, the largest in the history of Butler, already has raised $171 million from more than 27,000 donors and runs through May 2022.
By the campaign's end, Butler President James Danko said, the Indianapolis university will have repositioned itself for success in a shifting educational landscape.
“We go into the future prepared for flexibility,” he said. “We’re really looking at diversifying our student population. … We’re expanding beyond a heavy reliance on undergraduate residential.”
The undergraduate population has soared in recent years, from just under 4,000 in the fall of 2009 to more than 4,880 in the fall of 2018.
But as companies like Amazon and Google partner with other institutions of higher learning to help employees improve their skills, Danko and others at Butler believe the Indianapolis university can expand its mission to include nontraditional adult learners.
The school already has partnered with Kenzie Academy to provide an alternative to four-year college.
About 85 percent of the Butler student body on its north-side campus is now undergraduate residential. That could shift to a 70-30 percent divide in the coming years, Danko said.
Not all of those non-undergraduate students will be enrolled in graduate degree programs, however.
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The university may offer certificates or badges of completion, rather than degrees, and partner with local companies to provide education they want employees to have, said Melissa Beckwith, vice president of strategy and innovation. The school also could look into using online technology to reach adult students.
“With a different sort of learner, we need to have more flexible offerings,” she said.
Both undergraduate and non-undergraduate students alike could enjoy enhanced science facilities in the future.
Butler’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business recently moved into a new home, opening up the Holcomb Building. That facility an adjoining one, Gallahue Hall, will house the sciences and have a new connector with a 13,140-square-foot atrium between them. The updates will cost an estimated $100 million and add nearly 44,000 square feet.
The resulting facility will provide students and faculty with more flexible space that can foster collaboration, Danko said.
Butler also will be looking outside the campus’ borders to become more collaborative with its neighbors in Indianapolis and beyond.
The college will try to identify areas where it can offer educational opportunities for Indianapolis Public Schools students so they can earn dual degree credits.
In addition, Danko said, Butler is brainstorming creative ways to cut education costs “to make sure we’re educating people in our own backyard who might not be able to afford it.”
Five to 10 years down the line, Danko said, he envisions a school that serves a wider diversity of needs from across the city benefiting from the new science facilities.
“You’re going to see people in there who are 50-year-olds and working professionals," he said. "You might see some IPS students and some of our undergrad residential students working side by side.”