May 19, 2006
Dear Bowdoin Parents and Families,
During their campus meetings last weekend, the Board of Trustees approved the College’s budget for the 2006-07 academic year. The budget anticipates operating expenses of $105.2 million. The comprehensive fee for next year will be $43,950, representing a 5.5% increase over the current year. The costs of attendance at the College for 2006-07 are as follows:
|Student Activity Fee:||$360|
All of us at Bowdoin are fully aware that increased costs place an additional burden on the families of our students. We really do work diligently to control costs while we continue to provide the significant benefits of a Bowdoin education. This year, our increase of 5.5% is below the average 5.9% increase among our peer institutions — probably not a consolation to you, but evidence that we are having some success in managing costs. I realize that an increase of this magnitude exceeds the rate of inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but the reality of our residential liberal arts model is that our expenses are not accurately reflected by such measures. We take pride in a very low student-faculty ratio and in the personal attention that our students receive from faculty, staff, and coaches. We also take enormous pride in our remarkable campus and facilities. Our form of education is expensive, but we believe deeply in its enduring value, and we strive to be efficient in the delivery of our program and to live within our means, consistent with our educational mission and model.
Among the significant budget drivers at the College are salaries and benefits for faculty and staff (which constitute 61% of the budget); information technology expenditures; major maintenance and capital renewal for our historic campus; and, like every individual and organization in America today, fuel and utilities. In this last area, Bowdoin is working diligently to conserve energy and to negotiate competitive contracts for fuel oil, natural gas, and electricity. More on some of these efforts a bit later.
In terms of revenue, the College funds just over half of its annual operating budget through tuition and fees. The remainder comes principally from our endowment and the generosity of donors and foundations. In fact, were it not for the availability of these additional sources of funding, our fee would approach $73,000 per student. That’s why it is so vitally important for the College to raise these additional endowment and annual contribution funds and to manage them wisely. The good news is that we are having excellent success in both areas. Our endowment — officially listed at $578.2 million last June 30 — continues to grow at a rate that is the envy of our peers. Meanwhile, the generosity of alumni, parents, and friends underscores a strong commitment to the College and serves as a meaningful endorsement of our educational model and the efforts of our faculty and staff.
As the cost of a Bowdoin education increases, so must our commitment to financial aid for those with need. Bowdoin remains committed to the admission of qualified students who should not be making college decisions based on their families’ ability to pay for college. Moreover, we are also committed to meeting the full calculated need of our students for all four years. We expect that the 2006-07 budget — which includes $17.3 million for financial aid — will allow us to meet the full calculated need of the students we will admit this year as well as all students currently enrolled who qualify for aid
We are intensely focused on increasing financial aid endowment for the College so that we may continue to attract the best and brightest students without the limitation of economic circumstance. Success in this effort will ensure that Bowdoin remains a superior college educating students from all walks of life to be the informed leaders that our society and the world desperately need.
As I mentioned, we — like you — are grappling with the high cost of energy and doing all we can to reduce consumption and to negotiate the best possible prices for energy products. But the reasons to conserve energy at Bowdoin are not all related to the pressure on our budget. We are an institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and a college that constantly reminds its students of their responsibility to use their knowledge and education in service to the common good. As such, I believe Bowdoin is obliged to limit its own adverse impact on the environment and to participate actively in efforts to employ new techniques and technologies aimed at the efficient and responsible use of natural resources. This important work is ongoing and is significantly supported and influenced by our students who, after all, will inherit a planet made better by the conservation and sustainability efforts we put in place today.
Our students understand the imperative we as a society must adopt in order to preserve our environment. A petition supporting “green energy” utilization signed by over 700 Bowdoin students and community members was presented to me three weeks ago. Since then, I have met personally with groups of these students to learn from them and to do some educating of my own aimed at encouraging students to think about these issues rigorously and beyond mere advocacy. The good news is that the College was already working on the means to allow us to purchase “green energy.” Beginning on July 1, 2006, we will purchase renewable energy certificates from the only certified low-impact hydropower facility in Maine. This purchase will ensure that the amount of electricity we purchase off the local power grid is replenished from a clean renewable resource.
This latest development in our sustainability efforts comes after much recent success in Bowdoin’s commitment to improving our environment. Today, the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions at Bowdoin — roughly 60% of the total — is from the fuel used to heat our buildings. To have the greatest impact on our overall emissions, the College focused on the heating fuel used in our central plant, becoming one of the first of our peer colleges to switch from high-impact #6 to much more efficient #2 heating fuel. This conversion in 2003 reduced our annual CO2 emissions by more than two million pounds. We have since upgraded one of the central plant boilers to burn both #2 heating fuel and natural gas, a move that is projected to reduce our annual emissions by another two million pounds.
In addition to these steps, the College invested substantially in geothermal heating and cooling systems at the newly constructed East and West residence halls and is planning to use this technology at our new recital hall and the renovated Walker Art Building. While the geothermal wells use electricity to run the pumps and heat exchangers, there is no fuel oil burned to heat these buildings. East and West halls have recently earned Silver Status certification under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for this and other environmentally responsible features, and they are truly models of sustainable and contextual design.
Our students are engaged in these efforts actively. We now have dorm “eco-reps” who lead their residential halls in reducing energy consumption. This involved ideas as simple as turning off lights, shorter showers, and compact fluorescent bulbs. The residents of Winthrop Hall were the winners of this year’s conservation competition, reducing monthly usage by 46%. I wonder whether these efforts are sustainable at this level, but it is impressive.
Going forward, we are exploring the feasibility of solar power at the Farley Field House, the roof of which would be an ideal site for a solar power installation. Photovoltaic cells installed on the roof could yield up to 130,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, reducing our use of electricity from other sources by about 7%. We have already joined Maine Governor John Baldacci’s “Carbon Challenge,” pledging to reduce our carbon emissions by 11% by 2011, a goal we may very well be able to exceed if we are successful in procuring additional clean electricity, installing more geo-thermal systems on campus, or creating co-generation through a solar installation.
We are also encouraging conservation across campus. Thermostats across campus were reduced from 72 to 68 degrees this winter, and went down to 60 degrees in unoccupied buildings during the winter break. This summer, we will be raising the set point for any air-conditioned buildings from 72 to 75 degrees. We are also conserving energy by powering down campus vending machines during idle periods; by replacing college-owned vehicles with more cars and vans that use hybrid technology; by replacing inefficient CRT computer monitors with energy-saving flat panel screens; and by purchasing and installing energy-efficient lighting and appliances, including laundry equipment.
Of course, many of these initiatives cost money, so we are moving forward carefully and making sure that any changes we make strike the best possible balance between responsible management of college finances and improved sustainability. Your daughters and sons are vitally important participants in all of these efforts.
As I approach the end of my fifth year as president and prepare to celebrate the achievements of our graduating seniors, I remain immensely proud of this historic college and confident about our future. In the coming year, we will see significant change at Bowdoin as we welcome new deans in academic affairs, admissions, and in our office of student affairs. We will open a new recital hall next spring, and will re-open our renovated art museum in the fall of 2007. We are also moving forward with the long overdue improvements in our residence halls, and are beginning to plan in earnest for a newhockey arena and an improved fitness center.
This is a college that has evolved with purpose to meet the challenges of educating young men and women who will be the principled leaders of our society. But even as we look to the future, we remain grounded in the principles of liberal education and the call of our founders for Bowdoin students to use their education in service to the common good. Our success depends on the energy and dedication of these remarkably talented and engaged students, on our world-class faculty, and on your continued involvement and support. Thank you, and best wishes for a wonderful summer.