Yesterday, I provided a campus update at a town hall meeting that many of you attended. This letter is intended to provide a brief overview of the topics covered for those who were not able to be there.
Gettysburg College has a culture of aspiration. We are always striving to improve the student experience and the way we work together to advance the College’s mission. At our town hall, I reviewed a few recent institutional points of pride, some of which are reflected in the national college and university rankings, such as best value, best classroom experience, best undergraduate teaching, best athletic and science lab facilities, best food, best alumni network, best internships, and most popular study abroad programs. (View our latest rankings.)
I also highlighted our record-setting fundraising campaign, which exceeded our $150 million goal by more than $10 million, and set the stage for successful fundraising into the future. The Gettysburg Great Campaign was the most ambitious fundraising effort in our College’s 186-year history, and in many ways, it has proven to be the most transformational.
As we prepare to yield another incoming class this spring, we should take great pride in our continued success in attracting talented students to Gettysburg College from across the country and around the world. Institutions of higher education in this country face a challenging environment, and Gettysburg is not immune to those challenges—making our ability to meet or surpass enrollment goals all the more impressive. As prospective students and their families visit this spring, I encourage you to welcome them warmly and offer them assistance. That welcoming spirit has significant impact on the impressions that visitors form of our community.
This past year, we completed a beautiful addition to our College Union Building and redesigned the College website. We have also begun to integrate design thinking—a creative approach to solving problems—into some of our campus work.
Perhaps most importantly to the College’s future, we completed a national search for a new president of Gettysburg College, Bob Iuliano. Bob brings tremendous experience in higher education, and I believe he will be an excellent addition to our Gettysburg community.
Many, many people on campus have contributed to these successes, and the College has benefitted greatly from their efforts. I am grateful to each one of you for the part you play in making Gettysburg College a truly exceptional liberal arts college.
At their February meeting, our Board of Trustees approved the budget for the 2019-2020 academic year. Next year’s operating budget of approximately $135 million is built on a 3.5% increase in our comprehensive fee, bringing that fee to $69,850. Once we factor in our enrollment and financial aid, we are projecting a 1.9% increase in our operating budget. In that budget, we have been able to include a 2.5% increase to our salary pools.
At the town hall, I spoke about some recent initiatives to support growth in wages for our lower-paid administrators and support staff. Specifically, we have recently designated funds to increase salaries for support staff at the lower hourly wage levels, and we have awarded more than $500,000 in bonuses to support staff over the last two years. We have also worked to address equity and compression issues in wages for support and administrative staff.
Although it is clear that we have more work to do in the area of wages, these have been important steps towards addressing some of the most critical concerns.
Higher education continues to face some significant challenges. Fewer students will be graduating from high school in the future, and those decreases will be felt most in theNortheast and Mid-Atlantic areas. In addition, increases in family incomes are not keeping pace with our increase in costs. Not surprisingly, families are very concerned about the cost and value of higher education.
As a result of these challenges, many colleges will experience enrollment decreases, increasing tuition discounts, slow revenue growth, and a continuing tightness in budgets. Gettysburg’s efforts towards sustainable excellence over the last several years have helped us to face these challenges and have put us in a stronger financial position than many other institutions of higher education.
We continue to consider and implement the recommendations made by our Sustainable Excellence Working Groups, and at our town hall I reviewed some recent and upcoming initiatives. Specifically, we have altered our approach to short-term investments to produce increased revenue, and we have made changes to our transportation system that have curbed expenses. In consultation with our Benefits Advisory Group, we have negotiated favorable health insurance renewal rates and introduced a high deductible health plan, both of which have benefitted the College and our employees. In addition, the Board of Trustees recently approved a second faculty retirement incentive program that is projected to yield significant savings.
At our town hall, I also spoke about a Sustainable Excellence Working Group recommendation that we consider the outsourcing of some services in cases that would allow us to maintain a high level of quality, while also reducing costs. Recently, we outsourced our student email, and we are in the process of considering an outsourcing of our telephone switch.
As you may know, the college bookstore industry is undergoing significant change, and many of our peer institutions have outsourced their stores. With the assistance of an advisory group, we have been reviewing the financial projections of our own College Store. It is clear that, despite the best efforts of our staff, we cannot continue to provide excellent service and affordable course materials on our own without losing money. Therefore, we are currently working with two outside companies to determine whether we should engage one of them in the management of our College Store. Should we decide to outsource, we will implement this decision this summer. Our College Store employees have been kept informed throughout this process, and I thank them for their professionalism and assistance. They will have the opportunity to interview for positions in the Store, and we will provide compensation and assistance to anyone who does not retain a position either with the Store or at the College.
At their meeting, the Board of Trustees reviewed the campus master plan and affirmed several pre-existing facilities priorities. This review made it clear that several of our residence halls—particularly those that house first-year students—are in need of renovation sooner, rather than later. The challenge is that a residence hall renovation would take longer than a summer, and we do not have housing available for the students who would be displaced by the closure of a hall.
Therefore, we are considering the construction of a debt-funded residence hall within the next few years. This would give us the space to move students out of the older halls as we renovate, and ultimately reduce the density of some of our overcrowded residence halls.
There is much that would need to be accomplished before we could begin such a project, and we expect to complete some of that preliminary work this summer. Specifically, we will begin to upgrade supporting campus infrastructure, starting with the replacement and relocation of existing electrical switchgear from Lincoln Avenue (across from the Jaeger Center) to the north side of the West Building. We will also extend natural gas service that will supply backup generators that we will add as part of the switchgear upgrade. The installation of underground lines along both the east and west sides of the West Building this summer will require us to reroute traffic at various times. In addition, the Borough plans to undertake infrastructure work of its own along Broadway this summer. We appreciate your patience as these improvements are made to the north side of campus.
Let me conclude by offering my sincere gratitude for all you do in support of Gettysburg College. I never take your efforts for granted. On behalf of our students, thank you for providing and supporting such a remarkable set of opportunities for their intellectual and personal growth.
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77