Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues:
Welcome back! I hope that you all had a restful holiday break and a productive Interim. This last weekend saw both the men’s and women’s basketball teams beat Lehigh, which is certainly a good start to the spring semester. I write with updates on our progress in a number of areas related to the College’s Affordability and Distinction through Growth initiative.
The opening of the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center this fall was an important step forward in providing enhanced academic facilities as well as additional social and study space for students. On the residential side, we are on track for a fall 2020 opening of McCartney North and McCartney South, with planning nearly complete for the additional eating and retail space the complex will provide. On the northeast corner of McCartney and March Streets, a full service public diner, named The Trolley Stop, will include in its décor historic photographs of College Hill and the trolley that ran a block away up College Avenue. Its menu includes classic and imaginative diner fare featuring locally sourced produce and meats. Open over holidays and breaks, with over 70% of the items eligible for student meal plan equivalencies, it will be an important addition to student dining options. On the southeast corner, the College Store and café will offer, in addition to Lafayette College merchandise, an expanded selection of books, gifts, and specialty items from the Easton Public Market and other downtown Easton shops.
Our plan for becoming more affordable, and ultimately “need blind” as an institution is a significant commitment that depends on multiple sources of additional revenue. Annual tuition increases and enrollment growth both contribute to our ability to increase financial aid. In addition, we are continuing to do focused fundraising for need-based financial aid through the “President’s Challenge.” (I appreciate the enthusiastic participation of faculty and staff colleagues who took time over January to appear in some of the teaser videos we will be releasing in advance of our annual Founders’ Day challenge. Stay tuned!)
With a significant portion of our strategy dependent on enrollment, admissions is a continued focus of attention. In our fall presentations on “The Changing Enrollment Landscape,” we outlined some of the demographic, financial, and competitive challenges faced by colleges and universities in the current environment. With college costs continuing to present a barrier for many students, we noted that our steady increase in financial aid has served us very well relative to many peers who experienced difficulty in meeting their enrollment targets last year. I am pleased to say that when our January 15 admissions deadline passed, we landed in a solid position, with a total of 8,128 apps, close to last year’s 8,390. With 300 students already admitted in Early Decision I, and Early Decision II applications up, we feel that we are in very good shape to bring in a strong class of 720 students next fall.
One of Lafayette’s greatest strengths is the investment of our entire community in our ability to meet our ambitious goals. Last year, the faculty Ad Hoc Committee on Growth was charged with assessing the progress of the Affordability and Distinction through Growth plan. In December, the committee reported to the faculty that it did not see a reason to halt or suspend the growth plan. They noted areas that warrant close attention in the future, and offered a motion, which the Faculty approved, recommending continuation of the plan to the President and Board of Trustees. The Board received this recommendation at its December meeting and expressed its appreciation for the hard work of the committee. (An overview of the plan for Affordability and Distinction through Growth can be found here and the dashboard of related metrics for tracking the plan’s progress can be found here).
Recognizing the critical importance of shared discussion of strategic issues at this juncture in the life of the College, we will once again invite faculty and administrators to a joint retreat with the Board of Trustees on February 29. This year’s retreat will focus on two key issues. First, we will look at how the admissions process has evolved since we embarked on our plan to become need blind, and the ways in which different forms of aid deployed by the college – need-based, merit-based, and athletic – are used strategically to land the strongest possible class with the available resources. A second session will focus on efforts to foster inclusivity on campus and in the classroom, with faculty, staff, and trustee participants engaging in facilitated workshop exercises together.
Finally, another new venue for cross-campus collaboration is provided by three working groups established this fall. The Student Employment group is working to inventory current employment opportunities and pay rates for students, verify that these opportunities meet developmental student employment goals, and create a plan to sustain and expand opportunities for research assistantships and EXCEL scholarships. The Campus Events Analysis group will review the current workflow for scheduling, budgeting, and managing events to identify what is working well and working less well in the process. Finally, the Optimizing Year-Round Use of Campus Facilities group is looking at ways to address the growing imbalance in on-campus enrollment due to high levels of participation in study abroad each spring. They are exploring options such as a January admission cohort and a first-semester abroad option, as well as discussing how we might build on-campus programming that takes advantage of our facilities when classes are not in session.
As this long memo demonstrates, this is a busy time for Lafayette! I am very grateful for the hard work and dedication of every member of this community. Best wishes for a good start to the spring semester.
President Alison Byerly