Update on Colby and the Economy

December 16, 2008

To Colby Students:

The global financial crisis that dominated the news during first semester this year must have many of you wondering how Colby is faring in the current recession. Hardly a day goes by when my inbox doesn’t feature an e-mail or two from presidents of other colleges and universities outlining measures they have taken or plan to take in order to cope with this new financial reality. And, though you are probably not receiving as much information on this issue as I am, I have no doubt that you are aware of and concerned about how Colby and its programs may be affected going forward.

The first question on the minds of many students is about financial aid. As you know, Colby has implemented a “no-loan” policy in our packaging of financial aid, and I’ve been asked whether we plan to continue that commitment. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is more nuanced.

Next week the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees will discuss a preliminary budget for 2009-10 (Colby’s fiscal year is July 1 – June 30, so the budget in question will cover July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010). The preliminary budget is balanced and fully funds the no-loan program next year. What we cannot predict is whether we will be able to preserve the program in all future budgets. But financial aid is a primary concern to the board and to me: it will be among the budget items we most rigorously protect in future calculations.

You also may be wondering whether Colby is considering a larger increase in the comprehensive fee than we have seen in recent years. That concern may arise as you read news accounts of universities, mainly public schools, planning double-digit percentage increases in tuition and fees as state legislatures slash education budgets. Though Colby’s comprehensive fee for 2009-10 will not be determined until late next spring, we expect to restrain any increase. The board is sensitive to the fact that many students and their families are already experiencing pressures on their own budgets, and the focus of our discussions about the budget is the protection of current students.

As we work to secure financial aid and to keep Colby within reach of current and future students, we will have to consider ways in which the College must adapt to a time of financial constraint. For example, we will postpone major new capital projects and some strategic initiatives indefinitely, in order to focus our resources on the fundamental missions of the College: teaching and learning. We will also take steps, sooner rather than later, to plan for future budget cuts that may be necessary in various areas of the College. I see this as an opportunity to grapple with questions about what kind of college Colby should be and how Colby can best prepare its students, even in these uncertain times, for their futures.

My colleagues on the faculty and staff are beginning to engage in discussions about how to cope with what may well be a prolonged recession. It is vital for students to be involved in these conversations, and in order for you to get involved, you must be informed. To that end, I have scheduled a meeting, primarily for students, on the financial situation and the challenges and opportunities it presents. That discussion will take place after Jan Plan, on Feb. 9, at 7 p.m., in Page Commons. I hope you will come and bring your questions.

In the meantime, the latest information on Colby and the world financial downturn can be found here.

Enjoy the rest of your break, and we’ll see most of you back on Mayflower Hill in January or for second semester.

President Adams