Monday, December 04, 2006

Trouble in Paradise?

Warnings of "crisis" at Ave Maria in Naples:
In a recent letter to Ave Maria University supporters, Provost [Fr] Joseph Fessio wrote that enrollment and retention numbers at the stringent, private Catholic college are low.

The problems are contributing to "a probable added deficit," which he referred to as a "crisis."

"It isn't that we did not plan for it," Fessio wrote in a letter, dated Oct. 18. "But as a situation unfolds, the problem (or sometimes even a crisis) becomes crystal clear."

AMU needs more students. The ideal growth of the school and 5,000-acre town, to be located between Immokalee and Naples in eastern Collier County, depends on it.

After disclosing a laundry list of problems the school has with recruitment and retention, Fessio made a serious plea to potential donors to fund merit and need-based scholarships so more students could have the opportunity to attend.

"To that end, I'm starting a task force of Regents to raise money precisely for scholarships that will help us increase our enrollment and retention," Fessio wrote.

"Without such a scholarship fund, we are going to incur deficits over the next few years which will be unsustainable."

Despite the ominous statement, Fessio insisted the school and town are far from doomed.

"It's not false," Fessio said of the written statement Wednesday. "Nothing will happen" if AMU doesn't admit more students.

"But we'll be smaller than we should be."...

Fessio said the top reasons for the departure of students are academic and disciplinary dismissal.

The average SAT scores for incoming freshman are between 1200 and 1218, Fessio said. Students must also maintain a 2.0 grade point average or higher to stay in school.

AMU has strict behavioral policies to which some students fresh out of their childhood homes have difficulty complying. Some more troublesome rules include boundaries on male/female interaction and the requirement that students must live on-campus throughout their college years.

But don't expect those rules to change, Fessio said.

"We have pretty high expectations of students when it comes to behavior with relationships, drinking and so on," he said. "We've experienced that some students come here, and it's not as lively as they had hoped, and they leave.

"It takes maturity, and we're not going to diminish our standards for decency and character."