President's Message to Parents/Students Regarding the Coming Academic Year, June 2015.

 

President’s Message to Parents/Students Regarding the Coming Academic Year, June 2015

On behalf of the faculty and staff at Drew University, I thank you for entrusting your daughter or son’s education to us and allowing us to be a part of their college experience. Each day I hear incredible stories about what our students are doing to make Drew shine both inside and outside of The Forest. I can certainly attest that they have made my first year as president of Drew very special.

I have also used this first year as president to take a critical look at the University and to make some important decisions about what we are doing well, where there is room for improvement, and what continues to put Drew in the most advantageous position to benefit our students both now and as alumni.

With that review, I have prioritized an in-depth analysis of our revenues, costs, and operational efficiencies. We seek to leverage our unique location, dedicated mentorship from professors, and strong commitment to engaged and active learning in the liberal arts, all in service of providing the best learning experience possible. As president, I try to make each and every decision with an eye to the “learning value” it will provide. I know that you chose Drew because of the intimate learning opportunities it offers, and I am committed to enhancing them further.

I write to you today to inform you in general terms of Drew’s tuition and fee schedule for Academic Year 2015-2016. The fall semester itemized bill reflecting financial aid will arrive via e-mail, but in this letter I wanted to offer further insight on how we make budgetary decisions.

For Academic Year 2015-16, tuition and mandatory fees will be $46,384. Room and Board will be $12,672. This is just under a 3% increase from last year. While we are unable to hold tuition constant, we are committed over the next several years to the smallest possible increases needed to achieve our mission.

What follows are some of the broad questions that we as leaders at Drew pose to ourselves in setting the budget for the upcoming academic year. These questions are at the core of our planning. We understand that cumulatively the decisions we make reflect the lifetime value of a Drew University education and degree.

Are we fulfilling our mission to provide the very best learning opportunities that we can for our students?

Drew continuously innovates to provide the best learning opportunities both on and off-campus, fostered by strong faculty mentorship. A few examples include:

  • Our students have participated in over 200 internships (both credit and non-credit) for 2014-2015. Many of these diverse opportunities have been cultivated through Drew alumni as they help to develop the professionalism and maturity students will need to succeed in an increasingly complex These experiences contributed to 96% of our 2014 graduating class (the most recent class for which we have data) being situated in either a job or graduate school.
  • During the New York Semester programs, students learn about international affairs from diplomats at the United Nations, about economics and finance from traders on Wall Street, about the contemporary art scene from working artists in SoHo, and about media and communications from producers, entrepreneurs, agents, etc. in Midtown and Silicon Alley. We added one new program this year (in media and communications), and I anticipate being able to use a New President’s grant to seed-fund at least two more next year, thanks to generous funding from the Mellon Foundation.
  • Our Theatre Program—consistently ranked in the nation’s top ten—maximizes Drew’s proximity to Broadway, integrating classroom learning with “on the boards” practical experience across all fields—acting, directing, playwriting, design, tech, stage management and choreography.
  • Our science majors regularly perform real-world research side-by-side with faculty experts, present their findings at academic conferences and publish them in scientific journals. Drew’s Dana Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti (RISE) students work with senior industrial scientists on research projects, and the program was recognized by the Merck Innovation Award for Undergraduate Science Education for fresh thinking and imaginative use of resources.
  • The Center for Civic Engagement combines the curricular with real-world learning opportunities in communities near and far. Seminars on civic engagement, internships with multiple nonprofit or government agencies and community-based classes link students’ academic interests with their work in the community.
  • Students who participate in The Fund, a course taught by an economics professor, invest real money—$20,000—in the market, directly testing what they learned in class.
  • Our Shark Tank program boasts a multi-round competition between student entrepreneurs judged by professors and industry leaders.
  • Art students work in our new digital art lab in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts.
  • The Arts and the Common Good program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a multi-year, interdisciplinary initiative that seeks to illustrate the ways in which the arts support understanding of the common good. Artists-in-residence bring innovation to the campus annually to teach and create work especially for Drew.

What are we doing to ensure that we are preserving the strong faculty mentorship for which Drew is well known?

Since my arrival at Drew, the feedback I’ve heard most often from parents is that they are grateful and impressed by the impact that the faculty has had on their son or daughter’s experience. In our efforts to maintain the ability to have regular contact and foster that aspect of experiential learning, we are committed to keeping a low faculty-to-student ratio, and augmenting the faculty with outside experts that can add real-world experience to the learning process. Whether these relationships are built in the classroom, through civic engagement, or semesters off-campus, they have often become the cornerstone of a lifelong relationship providing guidance and mentorship long after graduation. New programs that facilitate these relationships are in discussion and will help to continue to further our reputation in this area.

During the economic downturn we were not able to invest in our faculty and staff as we would have liked. We have made it a priority in next year’s budget to begin to correct this problem and to move toward ensuring competitive wages. We must attract and retain the very best faculty and staff to preserve the best of Drew.

Are we doing our very best to review expenses in order to maximize the support of experiential learning in the College of Liberal Arts?

In the analysis that I mentioned earlier, review of our expenses has been an important focus.  We have found several areas in which we can achieve greater operational efficiency and we have begun to capitalize on these opportunities to maintain and/or cut expenses. This allows us to direct more resources in support of programs like those listed above and to focus on areas of Drew that need improvement. For example,

  • This summer we are undertaking several small renovation projects in the residence halls that will make them more comfortable for students.
  • Our students have been asking for an improvement in the quality of our food service for a long time, and I have taken their input very seriously. I am happy to report that the Board of Trustees has committed resources to the renovation and modernization of the Commons Dining Hall, something long necessary that will allow us to dramatically enhance the quality and diversity of our food and meal plan options. This is a major project that will be in a planning phase this summer and fall. When we do commence construction, likely in summer and fall of 2016, we will provide a high quality alternative venue during the construction phase.
  • To ensure that addressing student needs remains paramount, we restructured some administrative services that impact them directly: Student Housing, Public Safety, and Dining are now part of the division of Campus Life and Student Affairs. The offices of the Registrar, Student Accounts, and Financial Aid are located adjacent to each other for the convenience of students.

Are we maximizing revenue in ways that will allow us to slow the growth of tuition and fees?

As you may know, colleges generally have four main sources of revenue: tuition and fees, including room and board, interest from endowment, annual donations, and auxiliary income

(dollars from money-making operations that go directly to offsetting student fees). Drew has a healthy endowment from which we draw interest, and we are grateful to our many contributors for their annual gifts, but we are striving to improve our performance in fundraising. We are working particularly hard to increase the number of alumni who give back to Drew and the amount of donations we receive annually.

We are also making changes in our conference and events areas to bring even more events and programs to Drew. For example, we are increasing campus rentals during non-academic periods and improving marketing to off-campus neighbors for ticket sales to cultural events.

Most importantly, we are deeply committed to enrolling more students at Drew in order to keep the rate of increase in fees low for individual students. In other words, we are seeking better “economy of scale” without sacrificing the small college essence of Drew. I am happy to report that we are expecting a larger entering class this year (by about 50 students).

Are we providing as much financial aid as possible to make graduating from Drew an achievable goal?

Drew’s annual operating budget this coming year is $111 million of which over $30 million represents scholarships and additional work study. Drew’s merit scholarships are guaranteed for four years based on academic performance. Our need-based financial aid also stays constant unless a student’s economic situation has changed.

I hope that you have found this information useful, but I realize I can only address so many topics in one letter. If you have remaining questions about our operations, please do not hesitate to contact my office at president@drew.edu. We will respond as quickly we can.

As I begin my second year at Drew and work on our strategic goals, I continuously return to one outcome I wish for your son or daughter: that he or she never has a moment’s regret about choosing Drew University and that throughout their lives they see the value of their education increase. Our administration, faculty, and staff will continuously strive to achieve this outcome and we will work hard to deserve your trust.

With deep appreciation,

MaryAnn Baenninger
President