We have a national reputation as an outstanding liberal arts college. Each year more and more highly qualified students seek admission, and each year's entering class is stronger academically than the one before. Our student body is increasingly diverse. We attract students eager to be engaged in learning. Our new curriculum approaches learning from multiple perspectives, asks students to make connections among disciplines, and builds a foundation for involved citizenship. Our superb faculty's teaching, research, and creative work compare favorably with those of the best in the nation. We offer a full array of excellent programs in the liberal arts and sciences, and we have added distinctive new programs such as globalization studies, film studies, and neuroscience. We have more than 30 off-campus programs on six continents, and we have increased opportunities for students to become involved in independent research and creative projects. A new, state-of-the-art facility supports learning in science. Our students have received Fulbright awards, Marshall and Goldwater Scholarships, and a range of other prestigious honors, including the Rhodes Scholarship.
We balance academic strength with vigorous co-curricular programming. Our Center for Public Service and service-learning programs are national models. Our athletic teams have achieved unprecedented success. We have a strategic geographic location between New York and Washington D.C., and our historical legacy is the most distinctive in the country.
Challenges and opportunities
Higher education is increasingly competitive, and the range of college choices available to students-public or private, large or small, four-year or two-year, nonprofit or for-profit, full time or part time, online or in-person-is greater than ever. Our conviction that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for 21st century leadership is not universally shared in the general public. Some question the value of the liberal arts, while many are unaware of its purpose and value-so it is essential that we not only strengthen our educational experience, but also do a better job of making the case for its relevance.
The landscape of higher education is shifting. The number of high school graduates is projected to peak in 2008, decline slightly until 2014, and then climb back to peak levels around 2018. The projected 3.2 million high school graduates in 2018 will differ significantly from the 3.2 million graduating in 2008. The greatest
increases in college-age population will occur in the south, southwest, and west, while the number of students in the northeast and middle Atlantic states-the regions from which we draw the majority of our students-will decline. The largest growth in the college-age population will be among Latino students, and by 2018 half of all U.S. college students will be non-white. Many of these students will require substantial financial assistance to attend college. These demographic challenges require us to recruit more effectively in our traditional recruitment areas while expanding recruiting efforts in new geographic areas. We must increase our financial aid resources and use those resources to shape a highly qualified student body while broadening access to a Gettysburg education for students across the socio-economic spectrum. We must also ensure that a Gettysburg education is attractive to students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Increasing demand plays a role in our ability to sustain quality, improve selectivity, shape a diverse and accomplished student body, and achieve financial health for the institution.
Although we share many similarities with the very best institutions in the country, there are also areas where we must improve in order to compete. Our endowment-currently $241.5 million-is less than half the size of the average endowment at the finest liberal arts colleges, as is our endowment per student, so we are more dependent on tuition revenue to meet expenses than the premier schools. Alumni-giving is critically important to financial health and is a key criterion in rankings of leading colleges, yet our 37 percent rate is not as high as many of our peer institutions and significantly lower than the rate of premier schools.
As we address these challenges, we will also take advantage of our many distinctive opportunities. Our place in history paves the way for distinctive programs related to the Civil War, to public policy, and to other areas. Our success in engaging students in learning inside and outside the classroom positions us for further accomplishment in this area. We have the opportunity to take on a larger leadership role in the national conversation about the value of a liberal arts education. There is far more potential in our alumni and parent networks than we have tapped to date. Progress on these fronts will build our prestige among the nation's liberal arts colleges.