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President’s Report for Spring 2015: Envision Trinity 2020: Strategic Vision, Pragmatic Plans

 
 

President’s Report for Spring 2015: Envision Trinity 2020: Strategic Vision, Pragmatic Plans

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Groundbreaking for the new Trinity Academic Center on May 31, 2014, heralded the start of an exciting new era for Trinity. A keen sense of Trinity’s history threaded through the remarks offered during the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on the library plaza only a few yards away from the 1899 cornerstone on the south wing of Main Hall, the very first building on Trinity’s campus. Echoing the determination of Trinity’s Founders to ensure a great institution of higher learning for the advancement of women, Trinity Benefactor Joan A. Payden, Class of 1953, quoted the 1897 exhortation of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding who, in a speech at Catholic University, exclaimed, “Trinity College will be built! Trinity College must be built! Trinity College shall be built!”

That rallying cry echoes across the decades and still galvanizes Trinity’s plans and vision for the future. From the start, Trinity was a bold idea among religious sisters who had the radical idea that educated women could be powerful leaders in all corners of society. Even as Trinity has grown and expanded into a small university over the years, adding graduate and professional education and opening four of the university’s five academic schools to men as well as women, Trinity has remained faithful to the founding idea that a great higher education is essential for women’s advancement and fulfillment.

From the vantage point of early 2015, the courage of Trinity’s Founders seems even more remarkable. 115 years ago, the first students and Sisters of Notre Dame ventured onto Trinity’s campus on a rainy day in November, encountering sawdust and mud as they picked their way through the still-active construction project that was the south wing of Main Hall, a lonely, isolated building that was the only structure on Trinity’s campus at the beginning. But within days, the students, SNDs and faculty brought Trinity to life, establishing the rhythm of classes and special lectures and co-curricular activities that became hallmark Trinity traditions across generations.

Those pioneers surely would be thrilled to see the Trinity Academic Center taking shape across from their old perch in Main South. While Trinity has changed in so many ways since Marie Rotterman and her classmates in the Class of 1904 chose the color red to start the class color tradition, Trinity has remained steadfast in its commitment to excellence in liberal learning as the foundation for success in higher education. Laboratories and classrooms conceived for 21st Century technologies and pedagogies are essential to sustain Trinity’s tradition of excellence, and the new Trinity Academic Center opens many new opportunities for programmatic innovation.

Groundbreaking was one of several great milestones that Trinity achieved in 2014. The new building would not be possible without extraordinary financial support from great benefactors. As the year came to a close, the Campaign for Trinity’s Second Century, with priorities for both the building and scholarships, drew close to $23 million toward a $30 million goal.

Equally important, Trinity’s finances have never been stronger. At the end of Fiscal 2014, Trinity’s balance sheet bottom line total passed the $100 million mark, with $77.8 million in total net assets. Trinity’s growing financial strength is a tribute to great financial management, generous benefactors and a strong sense of fiscal discipline exercised by all budget managers.

Of course, a great university is far more than its buildings and balance sheet. The real test of excellence for Trinity or any university resides in the contemporary alignment of quality standards for programs and services, the creative energy of the faculty in teaching and research, the diligence of the staff in meeting standards for service quality each day. Strategic planning and continuous assessment ensure that Trinity’s ambitious ideas can come to fruition through systematic action plans informed by best practices for higher education today.

Envision Trinity 2020: Strategic Plan for the Next Decade

Envision Trinity 2020 is the latest version of the strategic plan that has guided Trinity’s development for the last decade. Approved by the Board of Trustees in November 2014, this plan builds on the template first articulated in the 1999 document Beyond Trinity 2000 and continuing through several versions since then. The strategic plan is the basis for institutional assessment, which, in turn provides the foundation for Trinity’s comprehensive Middle States accreditation reports. Trinity is now in a period of self-study leading to the next Middle States accreditation review in the spring of 2016.

Envision Trinity 2020 refreshes the ten strategic goals that have guided Trinity’s development since the Year 2000. The plan is built upon Trinity’s contemporary organizational paradigm, now with five academic schools united in Trinity’s mission and goals, sharing resources and curricular concepts where it makes sense and growing in their own unique directions to ensure Trinity’s overall strength. Figure 1 depicts Trinity’s organizational paradigm today:

Figure 1: Trinity’s Organizational Paradigm

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Mission, Environmental Challenges and Strategic Assumptions

The full text of Envision Trinity 2020 starts with Trinity’s mission and sets forth an extensive list of environmental challenges, strategic assumptions and also includes a list of benchmark institutions. The full document with data appendices is available on Trinity’s website at www.trinitydc.edu/strategic-plan/

Some of the most significant challenges facing Trinity and all universities today include:

  • Declining population of traditional-age students graduating from high school
  • Changing demographics with dramatic rise in the Hispanic population
  • Increased demand for college access for low-income students
  • Limits on Pell Grants, federal and state student financial aid
  • Resistance to rising tuition prices and concern about student loan debt burdens
  • Increasing concern about U.S. competitive ability in Science, Technology, Engineering and
  • Mathematics (STEM) disciplines
  • Regulatory pressures to improve retention and completion of college students and more accountability for outcomes as measured by salaries of graduates

Trinity is well-positioned to address these challenges with confidence and creativity. Some of the strategic results that Trinity achieved in the last few years include:

  • Trinity has long been a leader in the Washington region in the education of students of all ages through adult and professional programs in the School of Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Nursing and Health Professions, and School of Business and Graduate Studies.
  •  Because of the strong appeal of Trinity’s historic women’s college, the College of Arts and Sciences, Trinity’s enrollment in the full-time undergraduate program has more than doubled in the last ten years, from fewer than 500 to more than 1,000 students.
  • Trinity is well ahead of the curve on demographics, with a strong majority of African-American and Latina students.
  • Trinity controls tuition price hikes with great sensitivity to student financial conditions. Trinity is grateful to generous benefactors whose support for scholarships has made a critical difference for hundreds of students.
  • Trinity’s success in educating African-American and Latina women in the STEM disciplines will grow even more when new science laboratories become available in Fall 2016; expanding opportunities in science is a top priority in Trinity’s strategic plan.
  • Trinity’s graduates continue to demonstrate the worth and power of a Trinity education, with more than 95 percent of graduates across the last ten years employed or in graduate school. Trinity’s youngest graduates across the last decade report average annual salaries around $60,000, mostly in occupations in social services, teaching and nonprofit organizations, which is typical of Trinity across the decades.

Envision Trinity 2020: Summary of Ten Strategic Goals

Trinity’s Strategic Plan, Envision Trinity 2020, presents ten strategic goals to achieve by 2020:

Goal One – Enrollment Development: Trinity will enroll 3,300 students in all degree programs. This goal includes individual enrollment goals for each academic unit.

Goal Two – Financial Performance: Trinity will maintain and improve financial performance as measured by strategic financial ratios used by credit rating agencies. Trinity Annual Fund participation and average gift sizes will improve to meet benchmarks for comparable institutions.

Goal Three – Strategic Program Initiatives: Trinity’s five academic schools will develop signature programs and services to support achievement of enrollment goals, particularly in nursing and health professions, education and counseling, business, math and science, psychology and behavioral sciences.

Goal Four – Technology: Trinity will sustain a technological environment that promotes academic excellence and innovation; effective, pervasive use of contemporary tools for research, communication and instructional delivery; and operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Goal Five – Human Resource Development: Trinity will develop the faculty and staff resources of the size and talent necessary to deliver the quality and scope of programs and services.

Goal Six – Management Capacity: Trinity will develop the administrative structure, leadership and management capacity sufficient to ensure effective delivery of Trinity’s programs and services.

Goal Seven – Informational and Intellectual Resources: Trinity will create and manage a body of intellectual and informational resources adequate to support the academic enterprise and that also contribute significantly to the advancement of knowledge in the respective disciplines.

Goal Eight – Service to Students and the Community: Trinity will develop innovative services and co-curricular programs for the campus community as well as for neighbors and constituents in the larger Washington community with an emphasis on effective community partnerships.

Goal Nine – Quality Outcomes and Key Performance Indicators: Trinity will measure performance more systematically through the development and application of key performance indicators rooted as possible in cohort benchmarks or other recognized external standards for academic institutions.

Goal Ten – Facilities Development: Trinity will open and operate the Trinity Academic Center successfully while developing plans for continuing upgrades in Main Hall and residential facilities, and through the 2016 campus master planning process, will develop a schedule and options for redevelopment of the Library.

Figure 2, below, is a graphic model showing the relationships among the strategic goals. Enrollment development is Trinity’s chief goal, with all other goals supporting that priority. The strategic model recognizes that enrollment growth generates resources, and at the same time such growth depends on investing those resources in new and improved academic programs and services, keeping pace with technology and upgrading facilities, and having the personnel and management capacity to manage a significantly larger and more diverse enterprise than ever before. The model also recognizes the imperative of producing high quality outcomes as well as the intellectual and informational resources — faculty scholarship, pedagogical innovation — that shape a university’s reputation.

Figure 2:  Envision Trinity 2020 Strategic Goals

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Enrollment Development: Foundation for Trinity’s Future

Enrollment development continues to be Trinity’s #1 strategic goal, as it has been for the last two decades, because enrollment signifies the vitality of Trinity’s mission. Having an appropriate volume of students in each program sustains quality and excellence in all programs and services. Enrollment is the essential backbone of Trinity’s financial plan, which is Goal #2. All other strategic goals support enrollment development.

Strategic Goal One states that by the Year 2020 Trinity will enroll 3,300 students in degree programs including:

1,200 full-time undergraduate women students in the College of Arts and Sciences

500 graduate students in the School of Education
600 part-time undergraduate students in the School of Professional Studies
500 graduate students in the School of Business and Graduate Studies
500 undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Nursing and Health Professions.
Figure 3 shows the enrollment projection in each academic unit from 2014 to 2020. Fall 2014 enrollment stood at 2,270 students in all academic units. The goal for 2020 is 3,300.

Figure 3: Strategic Enrollment Projections 2014 to 2020

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Strategic enrollment growth is not just about volume, of course. What distinguishes Trinity from many other colleges and universities that are also striving for growth is the profile of the students who attend Trinity. Some notable characteristics of Trinity students include:

  • More than 90 percent of Trinity students are African-American or Latina, and many are students who have very recent immigrant experiences. In the first year full-time class entering the College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2014, nearly 25 percent of the students are Latina, a growing population at Trinity.
  • Nearly 70 percent of all Trinity undergraduates in all programs are eligible for Pell Grants, one marker for students with great economic need. Nearly 85 percent of the first year full-time class in  the College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2014 is eligible for Pell Grants. The median family income among full-time undergraduates is about $25,000.
  • In all programs, Trinity students have multiple “non-traditional” characteristics, including raising children and caring for family elders, working full-time while attending school, and supporting themselves financially. Even in the full-time women’s college, a majority of students work a considerable number of hours each week to pay for their college and family expenses, and many among even the youngest students are mothers with significant family responsibilities.

Fulfilling the strategic enrollment goals means that Trinity must create and tailor academic programs and co-curricular services to the characteristics of the student body. This is where strategic planning moves from being theoretical and visionary to eminently pragmatic. Trinity works hard to ensure that students who enroll can realize success each semester, persist through the course of study and achieve the ultimate goal of graduation.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

The vital importance of scholarships and financial aid for Trinity students is clear, given their financial profile; continuing to develop sources of support for students is a strategic imperative. Trinity strives to keep tuition and fees as modest as possible. Figure 4, below, shows the comparative difference in tuition, room and board between Trinity and the benchmark data from our cohort.

Figure 4: Fiscal Year 2014 Tuition and Fees, Room and Board – Trinity and Cohort

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Despite keeping tuition and fees comparatively low, nearly all Trinity full-time undergraduates need financial aid. Trinity provides tuition discounts at an average of about 40 percent on the tuition price for qualified full-time students, and the students also receive scholarships made possible by generous benefactors, grants and loans from D.C. and the federal government. Figure 5, below, shows the sources of financial aid for Trinity undergraduates.

Figure 5: Sources of Financial Aid for Trinity Undergraduates 2013-2014

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Trinity students are fortunate that a number of outstanding benefactors provide generous scholarships. Some of the most notable scholarships supporting Trinity students include:

  • Joanne and William Conway Scholarships for nursing students, supporting talented young women from D.C. and nearby counties who have high financial need and great academic promise. The Bedford Falls Foundation supports this scholarship fund.
  • Clare Boothe Luce Scholarships for high-achieving students in mathematics and sciences are part of the great legacy of Clare Boothe Luce whose bequest is managed by the Henry Luce Foundation in New York. The Luce Program also supports Luce Professors at Trinity.
  • Rotterman Scholarships for talented students from Ohio are possible through the great legacy of Marie Rotterman, Class of 1904, faithfully stewarded by Mildred Hubler ’49 and the trustees of the Rotterman Trust.
  • Shannon Foundation Scholarships support eight high-achieving students through the generosity of Mary Shannon ’60 and her family foundation.
  • D.C. Achievers Scholarships support more than 60 students from Wards 7 and 8 at Trinity. This scholarship program, created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provides scholarships and support services through the College Success Foundation.
  • D.C. CAP, D.C. TAG and D.C. Mayor’s Scholarships provide private and public grants for D.C. residents at Trinity. Since D.C. students are more than 50 percent of Trinity’s student body, these grants have great importance for Trinity students.
  • Dreamers Scholarships support more than 20 high achieving students from many nations who are unable to get federal financial aid because of their immigration status. The students are selected as part of TheDream.US scholarship competition.
  • Hearst Foundation scholarships support low-income students through the generosity of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation in New York.
  • Economic Club scholarships support several Trinity students each year through a program created at the Economic Club of D.C. thanks to the generosity of David Rubenstein.

Scholarship support is a major priority of the Second Century Campaign, along with the construction of the Trinity Academic Center. This kind of support for students helps to ensure Trinity’s fulfillment of all strategic goals.

Strategic Program Development

One of the keys to enrollment growth is making sure that Trinity’s academic programs and co-curricular services are in alignment with contemporary educational needs and expectations. Higher education is challenged as never before to account for measurable outcomes, including the employability of students. Trinity firmly believes today, as it has since 1897, that the liberal arts are the essential platform for professional as well as lifelong success. Nevertheless, students today also expect to find a diverse menu of academic programs that have direct relevance to careers and future employment.

Among the many strategic program initiatives that Trinity’s five academic schools are undertaking, these stand out as the most urgent growth fields:

  • College of Arts and Sciences: Sciences, psychology and behavioral sciences, and international affairs top the list of majors targeted for strategic growth.
  • School of Professional Studies: Adding undergraduate opportunities in early childhood education for teacher aides responds to changing regulations in the child care workforce; expanding degree programs in the health professions, hotel and hospitality management, accounting and criminal justice responds to workforce demands in the Washington region. SPS conducts many of these programs in cooperation with Washington area employers.
  • School of Nursing and Health Professions: With the undergraduate degree programs in nursing and occupational therapy underway for several years, this unit looks to expand graduate-level programs with a master of science in nursing for nurse educators and administrators, and a Master of Occupational Therapy for licensed practitioners. This school conducts all of these programs in partnership with numerous healthcare providers throughout the Washington region.
  • School of Education: A longstanding provider of teacher education programs for the Washington region, Trinity’s School of Education has seen the greatest growth in the counseling program. The creation of the master’s in clinical mental health counseling is part of the program’s evolution, and in 2015 EDU is seeking specialized accreditation through CACREP (Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs) which will contribute to enrollment expansion.
  • School of Business and Graduate Studies: Trinity’s newest academic unit seeks to strengthen and expand the master’s programs in business, media studies and international security studies, programs that relate directly to major employment fields in the Washington region.

Fulfilling these plans for strategic program development will require continued investment in faculty and staff, new technologies and ongoing attention to facilities renovation and campus development, all priorities within the strategic plan. In particular, even as the new Trinity Academic Center is under construction, Trinity must consider the future of the library and the ongoing challenges of renovating Main Hall and Alumnae Hall.

Financial Strength to Achieve Goals of Envision Trinity 2020

The enrollment and programmatic elements of the strategic plan highlighted above can only become realities with a strong financial foundation and the capital necessary to invest prudently in the personnel, technology and facilities necessary to keep Trinity strong. Trinity has specific action plans to accomplish the strategic goals not discussed in this report, and all depend upon Trinity’s continuing fiscal strength and ability to keep raising new capital for strategic investments.

In Fiscal 2014, Trinity’s operating revenues, net of $9.2 million in financial aid discounts, totaled $33.9 million. Trinity has four principal sources of revenue as depicted in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Fiscal Year 2014 Revenues

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As the picture shows, Trinity is very dependent on student tuition and fees for operating expenses. The “gifts and grants” shown are the Trinity Annual Fund and certain government grants for programs. Capital gifts and pledges are not part of the operating revenues.

How does Trinity spend this money?

Trinity’s operating expenses in Fiscal 2014 were $30.2 million before net assets released from restrictions and funding non-operating items such as depreciation. Figure 7 shows the principal areas of expense in Fiscal 2014:

Figure 7: Fiscal Year 2014 Expenses

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Trinity’s operating expenses are very lean for the size and scope of the institution. Trinity manages to keep expenses under control with relatively modest salaries and limits on non-core expenses such as travel and entertainment. Trinity’s budget discipline always asks the basic question: how does this expense help students? Because 83 percent of the operating revenues come from students, Trinity’s ethical obligation is to be sure that students get high value returned for every dollar they borrow to finance their educations.

This President’s Report focusing on Envision Trinity 2020 is a summary of major planning and assessment work that goes on every day on campus. Much additional information is publicly available on Trinity’s website, including the audited financial statements, tax returns, plans and accreditation reports.

Trinity’s success is the result of the hard work of many, many people — more than 500 full-time and part-time faculty and staff, many devoted alumnae volunteers, trustee leaders and significant partners in the community. The generosity of benefactors makes a significant difference in Trinity’s ability to deliver high-quality programs and services to our students. In the end, the whole point of Envision Trinity 2020 is to make sure that future generations of Trinity students and graduates receive the same high quality education, and leave Trinity with the same strong knowledge and values, that characterized all prior generations at Trinity.

Many thanks to all members of the Trinity family who come together each day to do the work that will ensure Envision Trinity 2020 becomes a reality!

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