Formerly known as Peace College, William Peace University is expanding due to its willingness to adapt in tough times.
Jane S. Shaw of National Review reports.
The Little College that Could
I’m impressed by what used to be known as Peace College. It was a small women’s college near downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Two years ago, the board of directors decided to change its name to William Peace University (after whom it had been named), welcomed men as undergraduates, and cut tuition. Now, it has announced plans to purchase a collection of warehouses across the street that has been developed into a retail center. The owner of the center had filed for bankruptcy.
Purchasing the property would allow the school to expand in the future; it already is using part of the site for a parking lot and tennis court. But buying the 92,000-square-foot property will require $20.75 million, or two-thirds of the school’s endowment.
My view is: Good for them.
In a sense, William Peace’s efforts are the result of desperation. Attendance had fallen below 800 when the board decided to change names and add men as undergraduates. Alumnae protested, but the board stuck to its guns. Enrollment is up and the board hopes to reach 1,000. (By the way, the campus is charming.)
As for decimating the endowment, I have two responses. First, I accept Vance Fried’s skeptical view of endowments. While a small one protects a school against calamity, large ones simply slow down the good that money can do. In “The Endowment Trap,” Fried wrote, “Unlike most human beings, who prefer consumption in the present rather than the future (a fact that creates the interest rate), the trustees view themselves as having a time preference of zero.” That is, they view spending in the present as no better than in the future. Most people think otherwise except when they happen to sit on a university board.