To the Marietta College Community:

I want to congratulate each of you for completing another excellent academic year, and I thank you for all you do to make Marietta College a special place to learn and work.

For the past month or so I have been sharing with you some of the exciting developments that I believe will put the College in a position to thrive for at least another two centuries. We are working on a strategic plan that calls for bold academic and recruitment strategies responsive to today’s higher-education environment.

I am confident in a bright future, but I know that many of you are understandably concerned about our challenging financial position and want to better understand how we got here. I have shared before that a number of factors are at play, related primarily to the COVID-19 toll on enrollment and retention at a time when we had invested in long-term maintenance and increased our tuition discounts as recruitment tools.

There is one piece of the puzzle that illustrates especially well the way factors beyond anyone’s control can change the financial picture immensely, and that is enrollment of international students.

In the fall of 2017, our undergraduate enrollment of 975 included 182 international students — most of whom paid full, undiscounted tuition, fees, room and board. For 2022-23, we expect an undergraduate enrollment of 999, but only 20 of those are international students. That staggering drop resulted from a combination of changing U.S. immigration policies, COVID-19, and decisions by the countries and corporations that typically sponsor international students. For example, Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian state oil company, sent 12 students to our Petroleum Engineering program in 2017, but since then has decided to send all its U.S.-bound students to a single institution: Penn State.

Although we have more than made up the headcount with increased domestic enrollment, the loss of the international students represented $5 million in lost revenue, only partly replaced by the higher domestic enrollment. Consider that the cash deficit we are projecting for June of 2023 is $2.7 million and you get an idea of how a shift in one hard-to-control factor can change the equation dramatically.

Our Admission staff are working hard to rebuild international enrollment, but there is little reason at present to believe that it will rebound to 2017 levels any time soon. Accordingly, the draft Strategic Plan focuses on adjusting our spending and tuition levels in the short term and building our revenue for the long term, with new programs designed to deepen and broaden our appeal. That work has begun already with a badge program in mental fitness in collaboration with an alumnus and in support of athletic training. There are also badges for our incoming students that focus on college skills, and faculty are currently developing badge programs in a variety of disciplines.

I invite everyone who loves Marietta College as I do to join in the future-building work that lies ahead. You can contribute your ideas to the ongoing strategic planning process here. Our situation requires urgency; we do not have years to make these changes. But I am confident that together we can make them, and make our College stronger than ever.

Bring Forth a Pioneer!

Bill Ruud
President and Professor of Management