Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 7:56 pm

The Grinnell College Board of Trustees recently voted to retain the policies of need-blind admission and meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for domestic students. 

Since 2011, Grinnell's leadership has engaged the school's faculty, staff, students and alumni in an open, transparent conversation about the college's financial future. The school currently relies too heavily on income from its $1.8 billion endowment, said President Raynard S. Kington. A full 55 percent of Grinnell's current annual operating budget comes from endowment payout. Another 39 percent comes from net student revenue and 6 percent comes from gifts, with a small amount from other sources, including federal research grants.

At a time of national concern about college costs, the Board's affirmation of Grinnell's need-blind policy is significant. The college is widely respected as a leader in affordability among national liberal arts schools. Given Grinnell's well-known endowment, a decision to abandon need-blind admission could have been interpreted as a troubling signal about the long-term viability of such policies nationally.

"We remain committed to our long-standing policies of need-blind admission and meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for every domestic student," Kington said. "We will continue to experiment with various strategies for improving net student revenue and philanthropic gifts until we reach our revenue goals."

The college's long-term revenue goal, Kington added, is 45 percent from endowment returns, 45 percent from net student revenue and 10 percent from philanthropy and other revenue.

Philanthropy has become an important component of the school's efforts to reduce the reliance on its endowment, and the accompanying exposure to market volatility. Gifts to Grinnell College increased in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, with alumni giving up 8.8 percent over fiscal year 2014. Total receipts for fiscal year 2015 reached $14.1 million, up 26.6 percent from $11.2 million the previous year.

The Board of Trustees approved a resolution in February 2013 instructing the college to ensure its financially sustainable future while upholding the values of financial accessibility and academic excellence. The resolution also called for the Board to review the college's progress toward sustainability and reassess the commitment to need-blind admission for domestic students in the fall of 2015. The college remains need-aware in the admission of international students.

In its Oct. 9 vote, the Board committed to monitoring the college's revenue balance and to again review the need-blind commitment in the fall of 2018.

About Grinnell College

Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at www.grinnell.edu.