University Updates Winter 2013
I write to update you on recent developments at the University. As we work our way through the cold days of winter, I appreciate everyone's commitment to Clark and thank you for your efforts to enhance the reputation and strengthen the resource base of the University. Spring is not far away!
We are in the midst of the recruitment and admissions cycle for the fall 2013 undergraduate incoming class. I am excited to share the news that we have received the highest number of undergraduate applications to Clark in the history of the University. As of Monday, January 28th, we have received 5,498 applications for fall first-year admissions (at the end of last year's cycle, we had received 4,297). That represents a 28% increase over where we ended the last cycle. Staff in admissions are in the midst of reading the regular deadline applications, and it is too early to report on the profile of the regular decision applicant pool. We do know that the academic quality of the Early Action group held steady (as measured by recalculated GPA, school reported GPA, and Admissions Rating Codes) compared to last year, even as we experienced a 40% increase in Early Action applications.
This very significant increase in undergraduate applications most likely reflects several factors. This is the first year in which we are admitting students under a standardized test optional protocol. This is also the first year in which we are sharing extensive information with prospective students about the opportunities available under our Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP) initiative, including a LEEP scholarship for up to 10 students of exceptional accomplishment. More broadly, this result reflects the culmination of many years of terrific work by admissions, by marketing and communications, and by all faculty and staff to present to students an outstanding educational program and campus experience. Thank you for all your work at admissions open houses, in welcoming prospective students to our campus, and in the many ways in which you support this effort. This sustained commitment is bearing fruit.
In other very positive news, we are pleased to announce an upgrade to Clark's credit rating by Standard and Poor's. At the end of last week, Standard and Poor's upgraded our credit rating from A to A+, citing a history of strong financial management, solid operating results, growth in our endowment, stable enrollments, and indication of recent growth in both graduate and undergraduate enrollment. Clark's endowment reached an all-time high of $339 million, resulting largely from a 14.1% investment return in calendar year 2012. The A+ category includes such institutions as American, Brandeis, George Washington, Trinity, Rochester, and WPI. Given that the overall outlook by the rating agencies for higher education is currently negative, this upgrade in our credit rating is especially notable. It is a very positive sign of the high quality of work being done by a great many people on campus, reflecting on all aspects of the University's performance toward our challenging objectives, including the development of LEEP, the expanded number of graduate and undergraduate applications, improved retention, fundraising, and much more. I especially want to thank Jim Collins, Andrea Michaels, and Kathy Cannon for their excellent stewardship and management of Clark's financial resources that underlie this result.
As you know, Jim Collins will be retiring from his position as Executive Vice President this coming summer. The search is well underway to recruit a new Executive Vice President. We attach to this memo a copy of the position prospectus developed by our search consultants, Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates. If you know of strong candidates who might be interested in this position, please share with them the search prospectus or forward their names to Storbeck/Pimentel. We anticipate conducting on-campus interviews with the finalists for this position in mid to late March 2013.
Fundraising continues as part of the "quiet" phase of Campaign Clark, focused on securing campaign commitments from current trustees and others close to Clark. Within the past month, we have received $1.8 million in new gift commitments and pledge payments, including a $400,000 grant from the Ellsworth Foundation in support of our LEEP initiatives.
The Board of Trustees will be meeting next week in New York in conjunction with a campaign fundraising dinner for New York alumni donor prospects. This is the meeting at which the Board approves recommendations for tuition and fees for the 2013–14 academic year. In addition, the Board will be discussing three strategic topics: (i) the next phase of Clark's strategy for strengthening the neighborhood, with a particular focus on developments on Main Street; (ii) a review and update on Campaign Clark, including discussion of the timing of the public phase of the campaign; and (iii) an update on the strategies outlined in the Academic and Financial Plan to enhance Clark's reputation and visibility, with a focus on graduate programs and Clark's research profile.
One question that we have been asked recently relates to Clark's response to the continuing stream of announcements regarding online courses, MOOCs, and more broadly the role of information technology in teaching and learning in our undergraduate and graduate programs. While the challenges and opportunities of these technologies have been on the radarscope for some time, it does seem to be the case that we are crossing a threshold in terms of the probability that they will emerge as an important part of the higher education landscape going forward. At the same time, the form that these developments will take and the consequences for Clark remain unclear. Since our current Academic and Financial Plan does not substantially engage with these issues, we believe it is appropriate to undertake an analysis of these developments as they relate to Clark going forward.