To the Marietta College Community:
I hope the summer break is off to a good start for everyone and I wish you all a restful and reflective Memorial Day weekend.
After that, as you have heard me say before, we have work to do before classes resume in the fall — more about that below.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about our precipitous drop in international enrollment and the devastating effect it has had on tuition revenue — by far our greatest source of income.
Because I know that the financial challenges we face continue to be a source of frustration and anxiety for many, I want to talk about another issue on which some have questions: the past five years’ spending on capital improvements and major equipment. Some are frustrated to think that we made major expenditures, only to find ourselves now facing a cash deficit.
Two things are important to consider:
- The purchase decisions were made in a much different financial climate. No one could foresee the ways in which COVID-19 would affect us: hurting enrollment, especially international; creating new expenses; wiping out the substantial earnings we traditionally realized from facility rentals in the summer.
- The purchases were carefully considered and represent only a fraction of the deferred maintenance that still needs to be done. In fact, we estimate another $40 million worth of needs. Faced with a long list of desired projects, we put them in categories according to how long they could be put off and focused on those that had to be done within five years.
Many of the projects were unglamorous but absolutely essential for responsible stewardship of our beautiful campus and buildings: boilers and chillers, plus many other HVAC fixes; a hydraulic pump for an elevator; probably miles of conduit and cabling to keep a modern infrastructure working.
We invested in building renovations and furnishings to provide comfortable spaces for our students, faculty and staff to live and work. Gilman Dining Hall has new furniture and food-service equipment as well as a rebuilt patio and pedestrian bridge. Many residence halls received renovations and furniture. Walkways, bridges, patios and parking lots all over campus were replaced.
These are necessary, strategic investments designed to make Marietta more attractive to prospective students, and they have worked: Between 2017 and 2022, our total enrollment has grown from 975 to 999, in spite of the 162-student drop in international enrollment which was beyond our control. If we still had 182 international students, we would be looking at a very different financial picture.
Similarly, significant upgrades of our athletic facilities undoubtedly have helped us recruit more student athletes.
Marietta College is extremely fortunate to have devoted alumni who share their success with generous donations for buildings, equipment and infrastructure. In the past five years, donor-funded projects have ranged from the Lindamood-VanVoorhis Boathouse to Kevlar vests for our police personnel to four grand pianos to 20 Adirondack chairs.
These investments leave us in a stronger position to recruit and retain the students who are Marietta’s future.
Now, about the summer’s work that I mentioned earlier: Groups are forming to carry out the initiatives called for in our draft strategic plan. You can see them here. We need help and input from as many Pioneers as possible to get this work done. If you would like to join in the work on any of these projects, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bring Forth a Pioneer!
President and Professor of Management