Town Hall Recap – March 19, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

Many of you attended the town hall meeting before spring break, during which I talked about the general economic and higher education context and provided detailed information about Gettysburg’s current financial context and our financial forecast for the next five years. I also spoke about Gettysburg’s response to this challenging environment, as well as about next year’s budget, our Campaign, recent and ongoing facilities projects, and our year-long campus discussion about freedom of expression. Below are some highlights of the town hall for those who were not able to attend.

Economic and Higher Education Context

Institutions of higher education in this country face a challenging environment, and Gettysburg is not immune to those challenges. We face a declining number of high school graduates in those geographic areas from which we recruit the majority of our students; the racial/ethnic composition of those students is changing dramatically; and there has been little growth in family incomes. There are fewer and fewer families who can afford a Gettysburg education; and among those who can afford it, fewer and fewer are willing to pay the price. Financial aid budgets have soared nationally as tuition discount rates have increased, and competition for students is intense. Over the last 10 years, Gettysburg’s financial aid budget has nearly doubled from $33M to $61M, which represents a significant financial investment. We are pleased that we have been able to make a Gettysburg education accessible for so many students who could not otherwise afford to attend. However, this increase in financial aid has had a significant impact on net tuition revenue, leading to less flexibility in our operating budgets and salary pools. As we look out over the next five years, we project that these challenges will continue.

Gettysburg’s Response

Gettysburg’s response has focused and will continue to focus on both revenues and expenses. 

On the revenue side, we will continue to focus on the themes of our strategic plan: Impact, Inclusion and Internationalization, and Innovation. These areas respond to the challenges before us and have the potential to help us distinguish ourselves from our peers. Specifically,

  • we will continue our aggressive student recruitment efforts, both domestically and internationally;
  • we will continue to analyze the way we deploy available financial aid dollars to be sure we are appropriately supporting our students, as well as assuring the College’s financial well-being;
  • we will use our recent work with Dartlet to enhance our reputation as a College, focusing on those aspects of the Gettysburg experience that are distinctive and attractive to prospective students and their parents;
  • we will redesign our website in a way that will allow Gettysburg to promote itself more effectively and authentically;
  • we will complete the Gettysburg Great Campaign and launch an aggressive post-campaign fundraising effort;
  • we will focus on the value and impact of a Gettysburg education in our admissions materials, on our website, and in a variety of public venues;
  • we will continue to develop programs that are important to this generation of high school students, including career development, leadership, entrepreneurship, public policy, and undergraduate research and creative activity;
  • we will advance our diversity and inclusion initiatives;
  • we will continue to enhance our facilities;
  • we will pursue additional alternative revenue possibilities; and
  • we will encourage innovation as our community considers new programs and initiatives that are consistent with our mission and that would be attractive to prospective students.

On the expense side:

  • we will continue to review and implement the Sustainable Excellence initiatives put forward by our three workgroups who generated a series of recommendations two years ago;
  • we will continue to monitor our budgets carefully and be good stewards of the resources we have;
  • we will launch a second faculty retirement incentive if our review reveals that it would be cost-effective;
  • we will review employee benefits with the benefits advisory group and consider ideas such as high deductible health care plans, longer waiting periods for tuition benefits, and other strategies that will help to reduce the rate of increase for benefits, while continuing to meet the needs of our employees; and
  • we will encourage innovation in the way we deploy our resources, and specifically as we think about ways to reallocate dollars to new initiatives.

In addition, we have constituted a workgroup to monitor our long-term financial forecast carefully, keeping the Board of Trustees apprised and generating strategies for assuring Gettysburg’s healthy financial future. That group includes four trustees, Vice President for Finance and Administration Dan Konstalid, Vice President for Enrollment and Educational Services Barbara Fritze, Faculty Finance Committee Chair John Cadigan, and me.

2018-19 Budget

As I noted at the town hall meeting, budget parameters for next year reflect recent trends. The Board approved a 3.5% increase in our fees, for a comprehensive fee of $67,490. Obviously, our students and their parents expect a very high-quality experience, and we all need to work together to assure that. 

In addition, the Board approved a salary pool of 2%. Given the concerns we have heard about those at the lower end of our payscale, we are working to set aside some funds to begin to address those concerns. At the town hall I showed some statistics pertaining to our operating budget 10 years ago compared to today. In the current year, salaries and benefits comprise 61% of our operating budget, up from 57% 10 years ago. As the increases in net tuition revenue have gotten smaller over time, our commitment to our human resources has grown relative to our spending in other areas.

Campaign Progress

We set a goal to complete our comprehensive fundraising campaign by May 31, and our goal of $150M is in our sights, thanks to the hard work of our Development, Alumni, and Parent Relations staff and many others who have supported this effort through their service and their generosity. Average annual fundraising for the six years prior to the launch of our campaign was $8.8M. Since our campaign began, however, we’ve been raising an average of $17.1M per year, which represents tremendous progress for our institution. In addition, we are raising that money more efficiently, spending less per dollar raised than we did previously.


We have recently completed or are in the process of completing a number of facilities projects that will have tremendous impact on our community and will, no doubt, be well used. The Fourjay Welcome Center at the Eisenhower House is completed and will be dedicated in May during our spring Board of Trustees meeting. We are grateful to Geoff Jackson ’91 and his wife Gretchen for making this project possible. Other gifts from Trustee Bruce Chamberlin ’86 and Trustee Emeritus Jim Brenneman ’60 and his wife Mary Jane ’60 have supported this project as well.

Our new Office of Religious and Spiritual Life opened in January in a house on Stevens St. that was given to the College and has been beautifully renovated by our own staff. In addition, the Office of Multicultural Engagement has moved into the newly renovated Mosaic House near Brua Hall and houses offices, a classroom, social space, and 12 student residences.

The CUB addition is on schedule to be completed with the opening of the fall semester and will house the Center for Career Development, the Garthwait Leadership Center, an improved Bullet Hole, and some additional student activities offices and spaces. The dining hall addition that is currently acting as a temporary Bullet Hole will be converted to a catering facility for use by employees at lunchtime and for special events.

Given student concerns that have been raised regarding our responsiveness to facilities issues in the residence halls, we are in the process of putting together a small workgroup that will be charged with making recommendations for improvement. That group will include students and members of our residential life and facilities staffs. We will also review all residence halls this summer in an effort to be more proactive in responding to any developing issues.

Freedom of Expression

Our year-long focus on freedom of expression is culminating in a series of votes this spring. The Freedom of Expression Workgroup, chaired by Associate Provost Jennifer Bloomquist, led an extraordinarily inclusive process of discussion and input during the fall semester, yielding a draft philosophy statement for the community to review. Student Senate affirmed this statement unanimously before spring break. The faculty will vote on the statement in April, to be followed by a vote of the Board of Trustees in May. If approved, this statement will guide our policy- and decision-making related to this topic. Perhaps one of the best results of this process has been the education of many members of our community about this topic through perspective-sharing and discussion.

Concluding Thoughts

I concluded my presentation at the town hall with a reflection on the interconnectedness of our community. To achieve excellence as an institution, every one of us must strive for excellence every day, whatever our jobs may be. I am gratified to see so many of you doing just that, and I thank you for all you do to make the Gettysburg student experience what it is today.


Janet Morgan Riggs ’77