Westminster’s Financial Situation Appears to be Improving
The Westminster Alumni House recognizes graduates with an alumni lounge and a tribute to students who served in World War II. Alumni giving is the backbone of most private college’s finances and has increased from 4 to 9 percent at Westminster over the last year. PHOTO COURTESY OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE.
BY JIM MALVEN
In a town hall meeting on Tuesday, President Benjamin Akande said that the administration is “realizing measurable success in efforts to strengthen the college.”
Two areas he focused on in his address were external giving and student enrollment. He said that Westminster has received an increase in monetary donations during the past year and an increase in enrollment inquiries this semester.
Akande said that overall giving is “approaching a 50 percent increase” since this time last year, including a more than doubling of alumni giving, from 4 to 9 percent.
However, he added that there is still a “significant opportunity [for alumni participation] to grow in the months ahead.”
When asked about the possibility of an alumni mentoring program, Akande said that Westminster does need to engage alumni and that a mentoring program could be a good way of doing so.
“We need to do more of that,” he said.
According to Westminster News, the college named a new director of annual giving, Brian Warren, on Monday. The article states that Warren has 15 years of marketing, sales and account management experience in Silicon Valley and an “impressive reputation for fundraising.”
“In his new role, Warren will work with donors to maximize annual, unrestricted support for Westminster College, focusing primarily on overseeing and directing the Westminster Fund program and working to meet an annual fundraising goal through personal visits, direct mail, email, volunteer solicitations, phone-a-thons and special fund drives,” the article states.
Alumni Factor says that alumni donations at small private colleges range from a high of 60 percent at Princeton University to the low single digits at many schools. It also says that smaller, private institutions rely heavily on alumni donations to fund operations and to increase endowments, unlike publicly funded schools.
Regarding enrollment, Akande said that inquiries and applications are up 50 and 25 percent, respectively, this semester. He added that tuition discount rates have dropped by 9 points during that time.
Admissions inquiries and applications are up 50 and 25 percent, respectively, this semester. Overall giving is “approaching a 50 percent increase” since this time last year. -President Benjamin Akande
According to Bobby Andrews, vice president and dean of Enrollment Management, enrollment fell by 23 percent from 2010 to last semester, plummeting from 1,100 students to 845 students over the course of six years.
However, enrollment appears to be making quite a turnaround. Speech Communication professor Keith Hardeman, who has been at Westminster since 1990, said that that turnaround, along with improvements in enrollment, is a result of having the right people leading the college.
“Bobby Andrews is a phenomenal student recruiter,” Hardeman said. “Kelly Dopman [vice president for Institutional Advancement] has quickly established herself as a premier fundraiser. And President Akande has clearly resurrected lagging alumni giving by reconnecting alumni with the college. We have some distance to make up, but we are definitely on the right track.”
Akande said that the Board of Trustees convened to “contemplate the road ahead” and worked hard to “determine viable solutions for strengthening the college.”
“Our Board of Trustees is resolute in its commitment to carry the college forward, and we agree that our prospects are positive,” he said.
“Our Board of Trustees is resolute in its commitment to carry the college forward, and we agree that our prospects are positive.” -Akande
Board of Trustees Chair Hal Oakley, ’90, said that board members have been engaging in activities such as accompanying Akande on visits to donors and potential donors, participating in conferences with affinity groups and advertising fundraising efforts among classmates and friends. He also said that some trustees have made “challenge grants” to their affinity groups.
Oakley said that the trustees know that “more robust fundraising” and “developing a more philanthropic culture” among alumni and friends are pivotal.
“We are blessed with great support, but we know we can achieve more,” he said. “The Trustees are committed to this goal and demonstrate that commitment through both their personal donations and their engagement to seek support from others. We are prepared to support and help President Akande in any way we can.”
Akande said that the college is “staring down unprecedented changes in higher education that have challenged our financial resources” but that the future looks bright.
“This will not be the final chapter in the history of this great small college,” he said.