2009 President’s Report from TRINITY Magazine
Every day, we find new examples of the profound impact of Trinity’s mission on the lives of our students and those whom they serve. At the Cap and Gown Convocation on September 26, 2009, a very recent alumna, Philonda Johnson, Class of 2005, galvanized our seniors with her remarkable story as the founding principal of the KIPP DC: Discover Academy charter school. Evoking the famous quotation of Marianne Williamson to “let our own light shine,” Philonda revealed her journey from doubt to confidence:
“In 2007, when the opportunity to open KIPP DC’s second early childhood school arose I was both excited and frightened by this opportunity. The excitement was due to the fact that I would be able to touch the lives of hundreds of families and children in a community that was rich in history but in need of revitalization. The anxiety was due to the challenge that was before me that I initially believed was too lofty for me to handle and face…I struggled with the fact that as a 23-year-old formerly homeless woman from New York City, I had what it took to build and lead an exemplary school. I had to believe that I had the LIGHT or power present inside of me to be successful and to lead a successful school. …Every day, as I walk throughout my school that serves 100 beautiful pre-kindergarten students in Ward 8, I am grateful for the challenge and stand ready for the next one. And this is the key: dreaming big, facing hurdles straight on, achieving that aspiration and dreaming even bigger the next time. One of my biggest hopes with opening my school was to inspire people to pursue careers in urban early childhood education.…”
Philonda went on to issue her challenge to the new senior class:
“Class of 2010, your time is now. The real work begins after today.… I charge you to seize every opportunity before you, despite the perceived odds against you, with audacity. Take your dream and translate it to action. Not ten years from now. Not five years from now. But, today… never forget or lose sight of your talents or the LIGHT that is present inside of you that can positively impact our world.”
Philonda’s journey through the discovery of her light, her power and her love for the children she serves echoes the cadence of the Trinity prayer, open to and embracing the spirit of Trinity in her life’s work. You can read her entire remarks from Cap and Gown Convocation here. Her story is repeated thousands of times each day in the ways in which Trinity alumnae and alumni, faculty, staff and students touch and transform the lives of others: from the neighborhoods of need in Fort Lauderdale where Dr. Susan Widmayer ’68 has built one of the state’s largest pediatric health centers; to the fields of Apopka, Florida, where Sister Ann Kendrick ’66 built the Hope CommUnity Center for the farmworker families in that region; to the hard streets of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where the Reverend Marie Swayze ’65 co-founded The Clinic, a nonprofit medical center for people with no insurance; to countless clinics, classrooms, churches and community gatherings across the country where Trinity graduates live this mission in lives of service to those in need. Their stories of compassionate commitment, creative hard work and ultimate fulfillment inspire new generations of Trinity students to follow their example. As the old song goes, “By and by we’ll go out to meet them,” advancing the great work of Trinity in our world.
The 2009 President’s Report necessarily provides the clinical facts and figures of our institutional success, which is considerable. The headlines throughout this report tell the important story of Trinity’s institutional success. But behind the cold numbers are the heartwarming stories of human endeavor like Philonda’s story, the intellectual and spiritual transformation that provide the real reasons why we work so hard to advance the cause of Trinity each day.
Yours in Trinity,
President Patricia McGuire
Enrollment Boom: More Than 2,000 Students!
In Fall 2009, Trinity reached two important enrollment milestones: total enrollment throughout the university has surpassed 2,000 students, and our women’s college now has more than 800 students. Illustrating the progressive upward trend of Trinity’s enrollment, since Fall 2001 our total headcount has grown by 53% (with a 72% increase in the number of credits taken by all students, which is an even better indicator of overall revenue growth from enrollment), and enrollment in the women’s college has grown by a whopping 91% since 2001.
Strategically, surpassing the 2,000 total enrollment mark is significant in that it moves Trinity into a stronger competitive posture with other small private universities whose critical mass of students is in the 2,000-3,000 range. Such institutions, while still considered quite small by today’s higher education standards, are also viewed as stronger and more likely to be able to sustain quality indicators with a larger enrollment pool.
Trinity routinely compares our performance on key variables against a benchmark group of similarly sized and situated institutions: historic women’s colleges and Catholic women’s colleges with modest endowments in urban centers. The benchmark group includes: Carlow University and Chatham University in Pittsburgh; Cedar Crest College in Allentown; Chestnut Hill College, Immaculata University and Rosemont College in the Philadelphia region; Emmanuel College, Lesley University and Simmons College in Boston; the College of Saint Elizabeth and Georgian Court University in New Jersey; the College of New Rochelle in the New York region; the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore; Saint Joseph College in West Hartford; Hood College in the Washington region; and Ursuline College in Cleveland.
For this group of institutions, the median fall enrollment in 2007 was 2,350, compared to Trinity’s fall 2007 enrollment of 1,727. So, this means that two years ago, Trinity was about 25% smaller than our benchmark group. The enrollment growth of the last two years at Trinity has outpaced most institutions, and while the fall 2009 benchmarks will not be available until next year, we are confident that Trinity is fast approaching the median enrollment for our cohort.
Where Trinity truly excels in enrollment growth is in the women’s college. For Trinity’s historic women’s college – Trinity College of Arts and Sciences – surpassing 800 students is a stunning triumph after years of struggling with low enrollments. Trinity’s 91% growth since 2001 in this program is a remarkable feat among the nation’s fifty women’s colleges.
Factors Driving Enrollment Growth
- The Trinity Center for Women and Girls in Sports: Since the Trinity Center opened in 2003, Trinity’s full-time undergraduate enrollment has grown by 62%.
- Nursing: Since Trinity started the Nursing program in 2007, enrollments in both the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the School of Professional Studies (SPS) have grown by 30% or more.
- Improved Retention: A major focus on improving retention in all academic units has reaped a steady increase in students returning from one semester to the next.
- Improved Services: Trinity has reorganized many campus offices to provide more accessible and convenient services to students, and today many more services are also accessible online; studies show that improved service and convenience are huge factors in recruiting and retaining students at all levels.
And let’s not overlook this clear fact – Girls Rule! Trinity’s many well-known alumnae success stories influence young women in high school and older women in the workplace. Trinity students today affirmatively embrace the value of women’s education as a platform for lifetime success.
Financial Strength: Managing Well in Challenging Times
Entering Fiscal 2010, Trinity is an institution whose net worth as of September 30, 2009, is about $60 million, with an operating budget of about $29 million before taking into account the roughly $5 million tuition discount.
As Chart 2 reveals, Trinity’s budget depends heavily on student-derived fees: tuition, room and board, other fees. 82% of all revenues come from tuition. This fact explains the vital importance of continuing enrollment strength.
On the expense side, Trinity manages its resources carefully, placing the highest priority on funding programs and services that have direct benefit to students.
Chart 4 shows Trinity’s expenses in Fiscal 2009 by the major functional areas of expense. Salaries and benefits count for 50% of the budget – not a surprising proportion at all in light of the fact that education is very labor-intensive.
After salaries and benefits, the single greatest expense is financial aid, which returns $4.7 million to students in the form of Trinity grants. Trinity’s average institutional grant is about 40% of full-time tuition, or about $7,700.
Facilities management and repair, along with utilities, take up about 15% of the total budget. Trinity’s partnership with Aramark on facilities management has helped Trinity to address many items of deferred maintenance while upgrading major systems and developing more professional approaches to everything from housekeeping to engineering solutions to landscaping. However, many large challenges remain on Trinity’s facilities agenda, some of which can only be resolved through significant renovations or new construction.
Trinity continues to demonstrate its strong financial management and inherent fiscal conservatism in tough financial times. Even in this year of recession, Trinity can demonstrate these important critical success factors for financial management:
- Trinity’s operating budget ended the year “in the black” in a year when many other institutions saw red ink everywhere.
- Trinity balanced its budget without any negative impact on personnel or students – no layoffs, no furloughs, no reduction in services.
- Trinity continues to meet all debt covenants for the bond issue that supported the Trinity Center construction.
The frugality that is a long tradition of Trinity, inherited from the Sisters of Notre Dame, made it possible for Trinity to weather the recession with far less drama than wealthier institutions who are now suffering the loss of perks (e.g., Harvard’s $500-per-faculty-meeting cookie bill revealed in recent news reports) that Trinity learned to live without long ago (we bring our own cookies).
Cookie lessons aside, Trinity is a good example of a university that knows how to produce excellent results on a slim budget. Our staff and faculty salaries are quite modest compared to other institutions, and our work environment is frugal.
Benchmarking Staff Size
Here’s an example of the comparative frugality of Trinity’s budget: since labor costs are 50% of the budget, a snapshot of how our labor costs stack up against the benchmark cohort is instructive. Using the cohort previously cited for benchmarking, and as indicated above, Trinity’s enrollment is 25% smaller than the median enrollment of the cohort. However, on a comparison of staff size, Trinity’s total faculty and staff count is about 40% smaller than the comparison group. Even more interesting, taking faculty counts out of the mix, Trinity’s executive and professional staff size is just 50% of the size of the cohort group’s comparable staff groups.
Sustaining Quality While Acting Frugally
Does Trinity’s smaller staff size and more modest compensation correlate to lesser quality? Absolutely not! The professionals who choose to make their life’s work at Trinity know that the key to our success is not measured in pay stubs but student outcomes. Taking our cue from the example of the Sisters of Notre Dame whose “contributed services” made it possible for Trinity to operate through its first century, the faculty and staff who choose Trinity today do so with a distinctive sense of mission and ministry for the sake of our students. This means that our faculty – now accessible to students 24/7 through email, texting and other technology marvels – devote enormous amounts of time to working with their students not just in class and formal meetings but in profoundly intensive one-on-one instructional and advising sessions that are the continuous conversation of teaching and learning at Trinity.
Balance Sheet Basics
Trinity did feel the impact of the recession on our balance sheet as a result of the decline in investments that virtually all institutions suffered in Fiscal 2009. After suffering the same fluctuations in value that ran through investments everywhere, Trinity’s endowment that started Fiscal 2009 at $10.2 million ended the fiscal year down 22% to just about $8 million. However, in the first quarter of Fiscal 2010, favorable investment conditions brought the endowment back to $9.1 million as of September 30, 2009.
Chart 5 depicts Trinity’s balance sheet comparing Fiscal 2009 and Fiscal 2008.
Tuition and Financial Aid: Sustaining Access and Affordability
In early October 2009, the College Board released its annual survey of tuition prices. The data reveal that the recession has driven public college prices to record highs as state legislatures cut back on funding; the average public university increase was a stunning 6.5% this year. Private colleges restrained growth, but at an average increase of 4.4%, the rate of tuition growth still outpaces inflation. Trinity’s annual increase for 2009-2010 tuition was much lower than either of these groups, at just 3%, bringing this year’s full-time tuition to $19,360.
Chart 6 shows the growth in Trinity’s full-time undergraduate tuition compared to the national average for private colleges during the last five years.
At Trinity, we make every effort to restrain the growth of tuition while still supporting the many needs of the campus infrastructure and delivering high quality programs and services for our students. For most of the last two decades, in most years Trinity’s rate of tuition increase has been no more than 3%.
Financial aid is another large factor in setting our tuition price each year. Almost 100% of Trinity’s full-time undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences need financial assistance to attend, and many of our undergraduates have substantial need – 60% received Pell Grants in 2008-2009, which is a very high proportion of low-income students. A survey of our entering freshwomen in Fall 2008 (the CIRP survey done annually) revealed that the estimated median family income for Trinity’s first year students was about $30,000, compared to an estimated median family income of about $75,000 for all women attending four-year Catholic colleges nationally.
Trinity grants, combined with other grant sources and federal loans, offset tuition increases and make it possible for students to close the gap between what they or their families can afford and the actual tuition price. Trinity grants are, by far, the single largest source of grant aid for our students.
Chart 7 shows the comparative volume of all Trinity grants ($4.7 million) next to all other grant sources ($3.6 million) including Pell Grants.
Benchmarking Affordability and Access
Compared to the benchmark institutions cited earlier in this report, Trinity students have remarkably greater financial need according to the percentage of Pell Grant recipients – 27% of students in the cohort institutions receive Pell Grants, compared to 60% at Trinity. However, virtually the same percentage of students at the cohort colleges receive institutional grants – 98% of Trinity students receive Trinity grants compared to 94% of students in the cohort institutions. Stunningly, however, those students in the cohort institutions who have arguably less financial need than Trinity students receive significantly larger institutional grants – the average Trinity student receives a grant of $7,328 versus the average grant of $11,161 in the cohort. Even accounting for higher tuition levels in the benchmark group, the institutional grant is larger proportionately than Trinity’s grant. How can these institutions make much larger grants? The clear answer is larger endowments and more charitable gifts going directly to scholarship support, or offsetting other institutional costs so that the colleges can devote more resources to student aid.
Your Gift Counts: Sustaining Trinity’s Mission
We are deeply grateful to the many donors who made gifts to Trinity in 2008-2009, the year of the Great Recession. Your generosity supported Trinity’s needs with nearly $900,000 in gift revenues. Thank you!
This President’s Report documents some of Trinity’s performance indicators in Fiscal 2009, demonstrating Trinity’s fiscal stability, strong and conservative money management approach, and clear commitment to operating the university in ways that are of most benefit to our students. As we consider Trinity’s future opportunities and needs, what becomes increasingly clear is the need to develop a significantly larger base of charitable giving to support these critical institutional priorities:
- Replace at least half of the “unfunded” grants, currently amounting to $5 million in Fiscal 2010, with real scholarship support ($2.5 million in scholarship needs annually);
- Build endowment from the current $9 million to at least $25 million in order to provide a more stable financial foundation for Trinity’s future;
- Develop a support fund to address critical infrastructure needs of Trinity’s historic buildings, including Main Hall, Notre Dame Chapel and Alumnae Hall;
- Develop the additional resources necessary to support the new facilities that will become the Trinity Academic Center including new classrooms, science and library facilities designed and equipped according to the expectations of 21st century academic instruction and research.
The above list is significant; the resource demands great. Should Trinity even think about a large capital campaign at this time? Why not? Other institutions with considerably less historic impact have recently completed campaigns of two-to-three times that size, even during the recession. The support Trinity must seek is not for frills – remember, we bring our own cookies! The support needs outlined above are essential to sustain a high quality academic institution today.
Trinity is more than worth such ambitious support. Trinity has repeatedly demonstrated its profound sense of accountability to its investors:
- To the students who pay the largest share of our operating costs through tuition and fees;
- To the alumnae whose achievements continue to give eloquent testimony to the value and importance of our mission;
- To the benefactors whose generosity built the Trinity Center, provides scholarships for our students, and supports our annual operating needs;
- To the Sisters of Notre Dame whose heritage at Trinity is our precious responsibility and stewardship imperative.
To all of these constituents, our accountability is evident each day in the remarkable achievements of Trinity’s students; in the devotion of Trinity’s faculty and staff to student success; in the financial and enrollment growth that ensures Trinity’s future stability; in the growth of Trinity’s reputation for producing some of the most effective results in higher education in Washington.
Let’s remember Philonda Johnson’s eloquent charge to the senior class:
“I charge you to seize every opportunity before you, despite the perceived odds against you, with audacity. Take your dream and translate it to action. Not ten years from now. Not five years from now. But, today…”
My dear sister alumnae and friends in Trinity, we must seize this moment, this day, NOW.
Your support will make it possible for Trinity in this decade to ensure the university’s ability to extend its spirit and soul to new generations of students yet to come, the future leaders like Philonda Johnson who will reap so many benefits from this extraordinary education.