Update on Colby's Financial Health

Memo from President William Adams to all Colby employees, January 31, 2003

Colby's Board of Trustees discussed the College's preliminary FY2004 budget at its recent meeting in Boston. While the board and the members of Colby's administration are concerned that the College's financial position could weaken, especially if the financial markets don't rebound, our outlook is guardedly optimistic. Given the continuing worries we all have about the national economy, as well as the news last week that one of our peer colleges plans to lay off more than two dozen staff members, this seems a fitting moment for me to write to all of you about Colby's financial health.

We should, first, recognize and congratulate ourselves on the fiscal restraint that Colby has practiced for many years. Painful as it might have been at times, that restraint, along with careful financial planning, have stood us in good stead, overall. We are moving ahead with the implementation of key elements of the strategic plan, including changes to our benefits program. Our preliminary College budget for FY 2004 includes $43.3 million for salaries and benefits, including significant changes and increases in the College's retirement and health care programs, which will result in a 6 percent average increase in total compensation (salary plus benefits) for continuing faculty and staff.

We also are committed, for now, to the other key strategic initiatives. These include planning for the Colby Green and several new facilities, additional faculty positions, our various diversity initiatives, and efforts we are making to enhance student life. These initiatives are designed to ensure the College's vibrancy and competitiveness well into this century.

But we also are keeping a wary eye out, because Colby has suffered some losses as the result of the downturn in financial markets. As of the last reporting period (December 31, 2002) Colby's endowment stood at $300 million, down from a high of $374 million on June 30, 2000. Looking ahead, our endowment spending assumptions are closely linked to expectations regarding returns on Colby's investments and successful fundraising initiatives in the coming years. Both are highly dependent, of course, on the financial markets and the general health of the economy. So, while we move ahead with our plans, we also are working to identify cost-cutting options we may have to implement in order to balance the College budget. I don't have a list of options to share right now, because we are still gathering information from budget managers. We are looking at our spending, including spending for strategic initiatives not already underway, with a view to preserving funding for the most critical elements of our mission. If the investment climate continues to languish or deteriorates further, we may need to make difficult choices in the future, much in the way that most American families and businesses will make choices about priorities for their own expenditures.

We cannot predict the future, but given recent announcements from other colleges and universities about layoffs and significant program cuts, there is some solace that so far we are weathering the downturn in a remarkably good way. It reflects very well on everyone at the College that we have achieved so much while balancing budgets under a prolonged staffing cap. Clearly this speaks to an extraordinary commitment and work ethic among Colby's faculty and staff, and for that I thank you.