2008 President’s Report
Challenging economic times, political change, war abroad and anxious worry at home – Trinity has managed through such times in the past, and Trinity is moving forward confidently amid today’s rough waters. Thanks to the decades of devotion of the Sisters of Notre Dame, who also lent their distinctively austere style to Trinity’s environment, Trinity learned long ago how to prosper while remaining fiscally prudent, cultivating frugality without sacrificing academic quality. Today, Trinity’s ingrained habit of great discipline in expense management means that Trinity is moving forward without disruption during the external economic crisis.
In fact, Trinity is enjoying a good deal of success in the Fall of 2008 – some good news amid the gloomy headlines! Among many elements of Trinity’s current success:
- More than 1,750 students now enroll in all degree programs at Trinity, an all-time high!
- Nursing is fast becoming one of Trinity’s most attractive major programs, with more than 140 students combined in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Professional Studies, either enrolled in the BSN major or indicating an intention to enroll once they complete the prerequisites successfully.
- More than 30,000 visitors and patrons visit the Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports each year, evidence of the great success of this venture that is now five years old!
- Trinity College, the traditional undergraduate women’s college (the College of Arts and Sciences) now enrolls 655 students, an increase of 30% since 2003 when the Trinity Center opened; this is a 104% increase since 1992, and the largest traditional enrollment since 1970.
- Thanks to generous alumnae gifts, Trinity has undertaken extensive renovations in the north wing of Main Hall, making it possible to reopen 4th North as a residence hall for students (with air conditioning!), as well as upgrading the residence for the Sisters of Notre Dame.
- In the months to come, Trinity will install more powerful academic software to expand online delivery of academic programs; thanks to a generous gift from the Alumnae Association, the faculty will have access to more technological tools in the Digital Media Lab to create the online courseware.
- Alumnae achievements continue to demonstrate Trinity’s success in many fields of endeavor, including, most recently the inauguration of Jane Dammen McAuliffe ’68 as the new president of Bryn Mawr College.
This President’s Report provides additional facts and background information on Trinity’s current status and future plans.
Trinity’s Enrollment Keeps Growing!
With 1,750 students enrolled in degree programs in Fall 2008, and another 4,000 enrollments in continuing education programs for teachers, Trinity’s enrollment is at an all-time high. A significant increase in the enrollment of full-time traditional-aged undergraduates in the women’s college, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), is a primary driver of this enrollment success. Nursing and Criminal Justice undergraduate programs are also driving enrollment gains in both CAS and the School of Professional Studies (SPS). Graduate programs in both SPS and the School of Education (EDU) are also growing significantly.
Chart A shows Trinity’s historic enrollments since 1900 (the yellow part of the graph is CAS, the traditional women’s college that began in 1900; the blue is EDU, the School of Education that began as the MAT Program in 1966; the red is SPS, the School of Professional Studies that began as the Weekend College in 1985).
New first-year and transfer CAS applications topped 980 in the Fall of 2008; 60% were accepted (the “selectivity rate”) and 43% of those accepted enrolled (the “yield rate”).
Chart B shows the historic application and acceptance numbers, and selectivity and yield rates, in the undergraduate women’s college (CAS) since 1970. What’s interesting about this data is that it shows that while headcount numbers varied over the years, selectivity remained around 70% to 85%, and yield remained around 35% to 45%.
Even as Trinity’s historic women’s college (CAS) continues to gain strength, the coeducational programs for working women and men in the School of Professional Studies (SPS) are growing at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Additionally, programs for teachers, principals and counselors are enjoying increases in the School of Education (EDU). A new 60-credit Master’s in Counseling program leading to licensure is proving especially popular in EDU.
Chart C reveals the top ten undergraduate majors at Trinity, combining declared majors in both CAS and SPS.
Chart D reveals the top ten declared graduate degrees in Fall 2008.
What do these snapshots tell us about Trinity students today? Like most students enrolled in higher education everywhere today, Trinity students are focused on getting the best possible academic and intellectual platform to support their lifelong personal and professional goals. Young women entering the College of Arts and Sciences today have a great desire to secure the broad foundations that study in the liberal arts provides, and indeed, this broad curricular base is required, but they also want to be sure that they are on track for professional success in today’s tough economy. Working women and men in the undergraduate and graduate programs of both SPS and EDU appreciate Trinity’s historic devotion to liberal learning as well, but they also need the applied learning in professional disciplines that has become a hallmark of Trinity’s programs for the workforce in the Washington region.
In addition to the top major programs indicated on the charts, a large number of students enrolled at Trinity are still contemplating their major choices; in their first and second years of study, these students work closely with faculty and staff advisors to determine the best field for their talents and interests.
Not shown on the major charts is another important group of students: more than 60 working women and men enrolled in Trinity’s Associate Degree program at THEARC in southeast Washington. The first three graduates of this program, completing in December 2007, are now enrolled in the baccalaureate program on Trinity’s main campus. This evening program has proven to be so successful that many community leaders in Southeast have asked Trinity to consider expanding to a daytime version of the program as well.
Money: How Does Trinity Do It?
By just about any measure, Trinity is one of the most economically efficient universities around. With a net operating budget of about $22 million, Trinity touches and transforms thousands of lives through the work of a highly dedicated faculty and staff, as well as creative programs that provide learning and living opportunities for a broad range of students, patrons and visitors to campus.
Eighty-one percent of Trinity’s operating revenues come from student tuition, room and board, and other fees that students pay. Like many historic Catholic colleges with a very small endowment, Trinity is heavily dependent upon student tuition. Gifts and grants account for about 5% of revenues.
Chart E shows all of Trinity’s revenue sources in the current fiscal year.
Chart F shows Trinity’s expenses in Fiscal 2009. Note that “financial aid” in the expense chart above, which is 15% of the expense budget, is unfunded aid to students. This means that Trinity awards grants worth about $4.1 million, but there is no endowment revenue backing up this expense. Trinity would need an endowment of about $90 million to produce enough income to offset the unfunded grants that full-time students receive each year.
Much of Trinity’s expenses are fixed operating costs. The facilities expense of $3.3 million could be significantly larger if Trinity could afford to address all of the needs of the campus. General institutional support includes the large fixed costs of technology, security and risk management expenses like insurance and legal fees without which an institution cannot operate today.
If Trinity had a larger endowment, Trinity could also improve the relative proportion of the university’s budget devoted to academic expenses. Thanks to the hard work of Trinity’s faculty, including 60 full-time and more than 150 adjunct faculty members who share their talent for modest stipends, Trinity is able to achieve a great deal in the academic programs even with a constrained budget.
Another way of looking at Trinity’s expenses considers how every dollar is allocated to functional expense lines, as in Chart G.
Tuition Pricing: Trinity Favors Students
Trinity’s tuition pricing policies are historically sensitive to the needs of Trinity students and families. For the last several years, colleges and universities nationally have come under severe criticism for skyrocketing tuition prices. Many universities with large endowments still set tuition prices at levels that are 50% to 100% higher than Trinity’s tuition. For very elite universities, the “sticker price” trumpets the education Cadillac – all cars have four wheels and motors, but some have fancier trims. Increasingly few families in America can afford to buy horsepower that they don’t need; Trinity’s ethical stance on setting tuition price in line with actual needs is also a good business practice. Many students who attend Trinity come from families of modest means, but with Trinity’s careful attention to tuition prices, combined with a strong financial aid program that leverages Trinity’s resources with federal and local aid, students are able to achieve their college degrees at Trinity.
Financial Aid: Essential Help for Worthy Students
Even with Trinity’s price sensitivity, the majority of Trinity students need financial assistance. Data collected on first-time full-time students in Trinity’s women’s college in Fall 2007 revealed that the median family income for Trinity students in this cohort was $30,000, compared with the median family income of $75,000 for women attending other four-year Catholic colleges.
A typical financial assistance package for a full-time Trinity undergraduate looks like Chart I.
Trinity’s total cost of attendance in 2007-2008 (tuition, room and board and related expenses) was about $27,000. Of that amount, Trinity’s typical grant is about 35% to 40% of the tuition price, and then other sources of aid contribute to the package: Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, D.C. TAG or CAP or LEAP grants for local residents, and work-study. Sometimes, some students receive outside scholarships.
Trinity’s grants in most of these packages are unfunded, meaning that Trinity simply discounts the tuition price. Only about $400,000 annually comes from endowment income for scholarships; more than $4 million comes from lost revenues through the discount.
Many wealthier universities today are moving to provide significantly larger scholarships that reduce student dependence on federal loans. Trinity does not have the endowment resources at present to provide loan replacement. As a result, many students graduate from Trinity with very high debt burdens because they have to borrow the maximum amount allowed under federal rules. Because of this debt burden, Trinity graduates sometimes cannot work in the kinds of jobs they might prefer – teaching, social service, public interest – because they have to earn more money to pay down their student loans. High debt burdens after undergraduate degrees also often mean that students have to defer their plans for graduate school.
One of Trinity’s many great fundraising priorities for the future is building a stronger endowment to support more generous funded scholarships is of vital importance for Trinity’s students and institutional financial health.
Building Trinity’s Second Century
So many new students, so many new programs – Trinity’s success in the early 21st Century is clear evidence that this mission has a bright future! But as creative and efficient as Trinity has been, the sheer physical reality of the campus keeps pressing against efforts to grow the size and scope of the university more quickly.
Today, Trinity’s 1,750 degree students, 4,000 non-degree students, 500 full- and part-time employees, and thousands of visitors and guests all inhabit a campus that was designed and built in simpler educational times for about 500 traditional undergraduate residential students. Faculty and staff, too, were largely residential for most of the 20th Century – the Sisters of Notre Dame, a few priests from the religious houses nearby, and lay faculty who also lived in close proximity to the campus. As recently as 25 years ago, no one at Trinity could have imagined the dramatic changes in Trinity’s programs and enrollments that would bring thousands of students and visitors to campus at all hours of the day and night, weekends as well, and most hunting for a parking space and comfortable place to grab a bite, plug in a laptop, or display multi-media presentations during classes. Just finding enough electrical outlets – and having a large enough power source to support the demand! – is a challenge in many places on Trinity’s campus today.
In a report that Trinity filed with the D.C. Zoning Commission in July 2008, Trinity noted that five of Trinity’s eight buildings meet the “historic” threshold of 50 years of age or older: Main Hall (built over an 11 year period from 1898 to 1909); Notre Dame Chapel (1922-1924); Alumnae Hall (1927-1929); the Science Building (1940-1941); and Cuvilly Hall (1957-1958). Fast behind these venerable structures are the “new” library (1963) and Kerby Hall (1965). None of the campus buildings has had any extensive renovation, although all have had maintenance upgrades on a continuous basis. The price tag for significant upgrades on this group of buildings is considerable. Future editions of TRINITY magazine will provide more detail on Trinity’s plans for these buildings.
From 1965 to 2003, when the Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports opened, Trinity experienced a long period in which no construction occurred on the campus. This hiatus was an anomaly in higher education; virtually all colleges and universities renewed their campus architecture in the 1970s and 1980s, decades during which Trinity was struggling with low enrollments and trying to determine its future. Trinity’s inability to keep up with the “arms race” in facilities during those critical years means that, today, Trinity has a long distance to travel in trying to catch up with contemporary expectations for campus facilities.
Accordingly, starting in 2009 and throughout the next decade, Trinity will undertake significant facilities projects including these:
- The Trinity Academic Center will be a new learning commons on the Franklin Street side of the campus. Conceived as a series of related academic buildings, this academic center will significantly expand Trinity’s instructional, research, exhibit and performance capacities. Key objectives of this project include:
- Expanding classroom and instructional capacity to make it possible for Trinity to accommodate the thousands of students, faculty and staff who use the campus each week; as part of master planning in 2006, the space utilization study found that only 9% of Trinity’s current campus space is available for instruction, and much of the space is inflexible;
- Providing pervasive technologies in all learning spaces so that Trinity’s faculty and students can have the most up-to-date tools for teaching and research;
- Creating new laboratories designed for modern science instruction and equipped with the latest tools for both teaching and research; undergraduate research is an increasingly important component of science education;
- Developing more modern spaces for exhibits and performance so that Trinity students and faculty will be able to present their works in appropriately-designed settings;
- Developing the library and information resource backbone in renovated/expanded library facilities that are better integrated with the instructional design.
- New student housing will make it possible for Trinity to enlarge the campus residential population significantly. Trinity’s current housing capacity is about 275, but many more students would choose to live on campus if the facilities were modern. College students today want more privacy and flexibility in their living conditions than the old dormitories permit – suites with private bathrooms, cooking facilities, and small group lounge facilities are all important for modern college students. Cable television is an absolute requirement (something that Trinity will provide this year at a cost of about $125,000 just for installation of the equipment to provide cable TV).
- Renovations in Main Hall and Trinity’s other historic buildings will make these facilities not only more functional, but will also address fire safety, ADA access, energy efficiency and related issues that are necessary to ensure asset preservation.
Investing in Trinity’s Second Century
Even in times of external economic stress, Trinity must continue to plan for the future. The greatest colleges and universities in the United States enjoy large endowments against which the institutions can borrow money to accomplish continuous renewal of their historic buildings and to build new portions of the academic infrastructure. Public universities enjoy taxpayer-funded state support to build their campuses – even while state budgets sometimes retrench, the flagship institutions continue to build new laboratories, dormitories, libraries, classroom and student centers.
All market studies inform Trinity of this plain and difficult fact: facilities matter in student recruitment. Facilities matter. Even in the age of online learning, facilities matter. Students and families often make their choices about where to go to college based on appearances and amenities; the modernity of the campus becomes a yardstick on the modernity of the curriculum.
With an endowment of just about $10 million (on a good day!), Trinity does not have the leverage to take on significant debt to improve facilities. Moreover, the lack of a healthy endowment also means that Trinity does not have the funds to back-up the $4.5 million in grants that Trinity awards annually to students. If Trinity had a $90 million endowment to back up those discounts, Trinity would then begin to approach the level of resources necessary to sustain the historic facilities and build some new ones.
Trinity’s Second Century Campaign will seek significant financial support for three major priorities:
- The Trinity Academic Center: the Campaign will underwrite Trinity’s ability to create the Trinity Academic Center, including new and renovated academic facilities for classrooms, laboratories, library, performance and exhibit spaces, lounge and common areas for faculty and students to gather, faculty offices and other service spaces all tied together with the latest technologies;
- Scholarships: the Campaign will also offer major benefactors the opportunity to underwrite named scholarships for Trinity students;
- Endowment: supporting both of the above initiatives, as well as strengthening Trinity’s overall fiscal platform, major gifts to build Trinity’s endowment will ensure the university’s long-term ability to keep pace with facilities needs and technological advances while supporting students and faculty needs.
We look forward to sharing more details of this Campaign in future publications.
Even as Trinity prepares the Second Century Campaign, continuing support for Trinity’s operational needs through the Annual Fund and major gifts remains a high priority.
We are grateful to all alumnae and alumni, benefactors and friends whose support for Trinity remains steadfast even in challenging economic times. Your gifts truly make a difference in Trinity’s ability to keep pace with all of the many expectations of contemporary higher education. As we rise to the challenges ahead, I ask you to remember the great work of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and the investment that must be made to ensure its continued strength.
Thank you for your great generosity!
Patricia McGuire ’74