Friday, October 5, 2012
The last few weeks have been fraught with tensions for Grinnell faculty, staff, students, and alumni alike, as discussions have ensued about the long-term sustainability of Grinnell’s financial resources, given the current revenue streams. Alumni giving is low in comparison to our peers and the large amount of financial aid that Grinnell provides for a high percentage of its students means that, despite a high tuition rate, per-student revenues are also low. Here is the core issue: Despite downturns, the endowment is still large, but we rely disproportionately on endowment income for our annual expenses. The college’s financial modeling suggests that this source of funds will be insufficient in the future if some increases in revenue are not realized. Without careful planning, our core values of need-blind admissions coupled with a financial aid policy that meets full demonstrated need may be threatened.
As Chair of the Faculty, I am convinced that transparency and collaborative problem-solving will allow us to formulate an admission and financial aid policy that will not compromise Grinnell’s commitment to need-blind admission. During the summer the Executive Council and the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA) of the faculty began meeting with administrators to discuss both the fiscal problems and the potential solutions. Since then CAFA has been joined by student committee members and representatives from the staff and alumni. This committee will continue working throughout the semester and it is the plan of faculty members to bring a proposal to the full faculty for discussion and possible endorsement before the winter break recess. It is my strongly-held belief that the Grinnell College faculty and administration, with the support of alumni and students, will produce a practical and realistic set of policies that can increase the revenue from student tuition while managing to recruit a diverse student body and that we can retain our core values of need-blind admission and meeting full demonstrated need while also honoring another core value, “to build institutional strength for educating tomorrow’s students.”
I believe that our deeply committed alumni will fully embrace their essential role in supporting Grinnell’s mission and maintaining its legacy. Simultaneously, we will enhance Grinnell’s already strong programs and facilities and do more to effectively communicate its virtues to the world. The choices we make now must allow our fine programs to flourish without abandoning ethical considerations and must be easily reversible—not sacrificing need-blind and anticipating the day in the near future when the combination of gifts and tuition will generate enough non-endowment income to put Grinnell in a financially stable position.
Chair of the Faculty, Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies and Professor of Anthropology