“State of the college is strong” in economic crisis, says PresidentNovember 24, 2008
“Cornell College is positioned to weather the current crisis if we carefully steward our resources,” wrote President Les Garner in a Nov. 24 letter to the Cornell College community.
Garner stresses that the college’s core values will not change in the face of national economic instability. Furthermore, he states that, while the college may be faced with difficult challenges ahead, “our commitment to teaching, learning, and the liberal arts will not waver. With the confidence and support of alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, and friends, this institution has overcome greater challenges than the current crisis, and together we can overcome this challenge as well.”
The text of the letter follows:
Message to the Cornell Community
Recent global economic upheaval has raised concerns for all of us regarding personal and institutional well- being. I want to assure you that the President’s Council and Board of Trustees are monitoring the situation closely and are taking steps to ensure the stability of the college’s financial base and sustain the quality of our programs. While not immune to turmoil in the financial markets, Cornell College is positioned to weather the current crisis if we carefully steward our resources.
First, we are making every effort to help students and families finance their education. Last spring we restructured the financial assistance packages of 200 returning students in response to problems in the student loan market. We also are working closely with our entering students to ensure their ability to attend Cornell.
In the recent past we have experienced steady growth in enrollment. Enrollment is up over previous years, and applications for next fall are ahead of last year at this time. Admission is redoubling its efforts to engage a large pool of prospects and to recruit another strong class of students. Our Admission staff needs the support of the entire community to make certain these efforts bear fruit. Retention of current students is also crucial. By national standards, Cornell’s retention rate is high, and we must strive to retain this by providing extraordinary opportunities that keep our students engaged. In the coming years the retention of our student body will be that much more important, not only for the good of the students, but for the health of the college.
In recent years Cornell has enjoyed strong performance in endowment earnings. However, like many of our peers, we have experienced a downturn in our endowment levels this fall. As a revenue stream, the endowment provides just less than 10 percent of our operating budget, but these losses will have an impact on the campus.
We have taken and are taking steps to minimize this impact. In the spring we refinanced our debt in order to reduce our annual debt service payments. We plan to control and reduce spending for the remainder of the year and the following year, striving to do so with minimal effect on the student experience.
As part of the Extraordinary Opportunities campaign, we are completing capital projects that are fully funded by donations restricted for those buildings. Because of gifts earmarked for Pfieffer Hall, the Luce Admission Center at Wade House, and the Paul Scott Alumni Center at Rood House, those projects are either completed, in process, or soon to start. We continue to raise funds for The Commons and King Chapel.
Though the immediate future may be fraught with difficulty, the state of the college is strong, and our commitment to teaching, learning, and the liberal arts will not waver. With the confidence and support of alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff, and friends, this institution has overcome greater challenges than the current crisis, and together we can overcome this challenge as well.
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