May 17, 2007
Dear Bowdoin Parents and Families,
During their campus meetings last weekend, the Board of Trustees approved the College's budget for the 2007-08 academic year. Our comprehensive fee for next year will be $46,260, an increase of 5.26 percent over the current year. The costs of attendance at Bowdoin for 2007-08 are as follows:
|Student Activity Fee:||$380|
We pay close attention to the College budget and expenses, and we take seriously our responsibility to provide an excellent education while controlling costs in every way possible. The operating budget for the College next year will be $111.9 million. Our comprehensive fee increase is below the average of 5.59 percent for our peer colleges.
Alumni and parents often ask me if we could do more to hold down the cost of a Bowdoin education. I always answer that there are certain choices we could make to reduce significantly tuition, which provides 53 percent of our revenue. However, given the quality of the program at Bowdoin, we need to be clear about the depth of cuts that would be necessary to achieve any meaningful reduction in cost. Our options could include reducing financial aid; eliminating a handful of academic departments; reducing the number of varsity sports in which we compete; asking the faculty to teach more classes, and larger classes; shifting some of the course load to graduate teaching assistants and away from professors; and forgoing construction projects such as the creation of a recital hall or hockey rink. These measures are not in keeping with our tradition or ambition, but I am being perfectly serious – in order to make a real difference in tuition we would have to really do things differently. Frankly, while it might work on a financial basis, I am confident that a new, less-expensive version of Bowdoin would not have the same appeal to alumni, students, and parents that the College has today.
We believe strongly in our model of a liberal arts education. We recognize that it is expensive, and we spend an extraordinary amount of time weighing every new dollar in the budget. We work hard to improve the College each year, to make the Bowdoin experience better for each entering class. A liberal arts education at Bowdoin is people-intensive, with 61 percent of our budget going to salaries and benefits for the outstanding faculty, staff, coaches, counselors, food service workers, facilities staff, and other people who make Bowdoin the special place that it is. We devote most of our resources to sustaining a talented faculty, a low student-faculty ratio, and the kind of attention and opportunities that are not available in a larger university setting. That is our liberal arts mission.
As in the past, a significant portion of our operating revenue is from sources other than tuition and fees. The endowment, which had a value of $673.4 million on June 30, 2006, is well managed, growing at a rate that is in the top ten percent of all colleges and universities. Our net endowment return of 18.1 percent for 2005-06 was well above our peer college mean return of 10.7 percent, and the budgeted distribution from endowment to operations ($27.3 million for next year) is our second-largest source of revenue. The generous gifts of alumni, parents, and friends also provide significant operating support of more than $7 million each year. Our continued success on these two fronts – in building the endowment through gifts and good management, and in securing annual contributions – is essential to providing a Bowdoin education at current tuition levels. Without these and other non-tuition revenue sources, our fee at the current level of service would be more than $76,000 per student.
Bowdoin is committed to enrolling the most talented and promising students, regardless of their ability to pay. This financial aid commitment is especially important as our comprehensive fee continues to increase. The College's first scholarships were provided in 1814 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, when a year at Bowdoin cost less than twenty-five dollars. The goal then – as it is today – was to ensure access to Bowdoin for all students of great promise and to meet the full need of our students for all four years. The budget for financial aid grants is $18.4 million for 2007-08, an increase of 4.1 percent and a figure that allows Bowdoin to provide grant aid to at least 40 percent of the student body, with an average need-based grant of approximately $25,000. We also structure student loans to ensure that students graduating from Bowdoin have less debt than graduates of many of our peer colleges and universities.
I am devoting a great deal of my time and energy to the Bowdoin Campaign, and particularly to our goal of raising an additional $76.5 million in new endowment for financial aid – the largest goal within our $250 million campaign. We are making excellent progress, and our success in the short term will be an important step towards the longer-term objective of having 100 percent of our grants budget provided by income from financial aid endowment. Very few schools have demonstrated that commitment to financial aid, and I believe that the generosity of our alumni and other donors will bring Bowdoin to that level in the years ahead. In my view there is no more important priority for the College.
One way that colleges express their priorities is through capital campaigns. The Bowdoin Campaign is sharply focused on increasing the College's endowment to enhance the academic and student life opportunities that make Bowdoin such a remarkable place. Of our $250 million goal, $153.3 million is designated for endowment purposes, which will strengthen the College both now and in the future. As of April 30th, we have secured $170 million in gifts and pledges to the Bowdoin Campaign.
While our campaign fundraising will continue until June 2009, the gifts to date are already having a real impact on the academic and residential programs that students will experience next year. New faculty positions are being funded with campaign gifts. Donors are establishing financial aid funds and adding to existing endowments. Donors are giving to summer internship programs, student research fellowships, and the Bowdoin Outing Club. Each campaign priority strengthens a core aspect of the College and makes Bowdoin better – it is a very exciting time to be telling the Bowdoin story and meeting the talented students who want to be part of this College.
The campaign is not primarily about bricks and mortar. Bowdoin completed more than $110 million of construction and renovation in the 1990s and we have a beautiful campus that serves our educational program very well. The facilities are well maintained, and we have clear plans for any future growth. As we narrowed our list of needs to those few that would be funded in the campaign, we placed our emphasis squarely on financial aid, endowment, and the academic program, and not on construction.
However, we have completed one important, campaign-funded construction project: the creation of Studzinski Recital Hall in what was once a swimming pool building at the center of the campus. This $15-million project is an important investment in core academic facilities and in the quality of life at Bowdoin, and I am personally very excited about what it will mean to a Bowdoin education.
For most our students, the recital hall project (along with the Museum of Art renovation and the multi-year renovation of our first-year dorms) has been about orange fences, a certain amount of dirt and noise, and the general inconvenience of having some of the central campus torn up for eighteen months. Virtually all of the work took place inside the shell of the existing building, hidden from view, so our students have gotten no sense of the prize at the end of the dust, and little idea of the final product except for some stories on the Web site and the occasional rendering or photo in the Bowdoin Orient.
Starting three weeks ago, we began final preparations for the opening of the Studzinski Recital Hall, and as we removed the fences and opened the doors, students and faculty were able to see what had been accomplished in the former Curtis Pool building. At a "hard hat" concert used to tune the hall, I sat with members of the Bowdoin community and saw smiles, tears, and appreciation as the audience experienced vocal and instrumental music at Bowdoin in whole new way in a world-class facility. There have been seven additional concerts and events since that evening, and as I write this letter, the campus is still buzzing about the dedication events and a Common Hour performance by the world-renowned Eroica Trio. There will be many, many more such events on our campus in the years to come.
Studzinski Recital Hall's Kanbar Auditorium, with its intimate room for music, is central to our vision for achieving excellence in the arts. The recital hall also satisfies students' expectations for practice space in nine individual practice rooms. A rehearsal room, green room, lobby areas, and new and refurbished pianos complete what will now be the center of musical teaching, training, and performance at the College. Video and audio recording equipment linked to the stage will allow individuals and groups to review their taped rehearsals and performances. The practice rooms, complete with wireless technology, can become satellite performance or composition spaces where students are virtually engaged. The project reaffirms a commitment to arts and culture at Bowdoin and complements the renovation of the 610-seat Pickard Theater and construction of the 150-seat Wish Theater (both completed in 2000), and the renovation and restoration of the Walker Art Building, which will reopen in October.
The recital hall not only raises the profile of music at Bowdoin, it raises the quality of the academic experience. There are so many ways to encounter music at Bowdoin – students can perform in one of the College's acclaimed instrumental and choral groups or participate in student-run musical ensembles. They can steep themselves in music history, theory, and composition – or explore the intersection of music and technology. The rich culture of sound here goes back a long way, and now Studzinski Recital Hall will be a gathering space for those who love music long into the future.
If Bowdoin has a canon – a basic principle or standard – it is almost certainly an idea expressed in 1802 by our first president, Joseph McKeen. "It ought always to be remembered," said McKeen in his inaugural address, "that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for an education." No other words have better expressed the purpose of a Bowdoin education. For generations, Bowdoin men and women have embraced McKeen's view that an education acquired here is put to its best use when a student's "mental powers" are "cultivated and improved for the benefit of society."
This semester, thanks to the generous gifts of two Bowdoin alumni, we announced the creation of the Center for the Common Good – a great step forward in our support and organization of learning through engagement. The Center for the Common Good will coordinate the three major areas of public service education: community service, community-based education, and community-based research. At many colleges these functions are scattered about the campus. The Bowdoin model will provide a highly integrated program that bridges the academic areas in unique ways. The Center will have an important location in Banister Hall, near the center of campus, but campaign gifts are not for construction or renovation; rather, they will go entirely to endowments that provide stable and secure funding for programs that are today often dependent on the vagaries of departmental operating budgets.
New initiatives supported by the Center will strengthen existing programs and expand opportunities such as summer internships, alternative spring break service trips, civic solution mini-grants, public service leadership retreats, and "winternships" for students interested in extending their volunteer work over the winter break. We estimate that nearly half of our students already volunteer a total of more than 25,000 hours each year. From Brunswick non-profits to the Portland Housing Authority, from the local Red Cross to a New Mexico reservation, and from Harlem to Guatemala City, the Center for the Common Good will allow more Bowdoin students to have the opportunity to build strong communities.
The curricular dimensions of the Center are as important as the more familiar co-curricular programs. These are often referred to as "service learning" projects, which tie academic coursework to service by allowing students and faculty to work together with community partners – often directly in the area of a faculty member's scholarship and research – to solve problems that satisfy both our teaching goals and the needs of the community. In the past, these projects have varied widely and have included research on uses of the nearby Androscoggin River for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection; collection and analysis of data on homelessness for the local United Way; and research on education policy and schooling in rural Maine. Our new resources will support faculty and course development and will create more opportunities for Bowdoin to engage with the local community to address common issues of importance.
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Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful summer.