The start of a new academic year brings a surge of energy to campus each year. New students battle a mix of excitement and nervousness as they say good-bye to their parents and start this new chapter in their lives. Seniors begin the culminating year of their undergraduate education—and face the many important decisions that lie before them.
Like a brand-new notebook, the new school year sits ahead, filled with promise and opportunity. For many in the Randolph community, the 2015-16 academic year also brings a deep sense of gratitude and optimism for the future.
“It was difficult for many in our community to see the problems and difficulties at Sweet Briar come to light,” said Bradley W. Bateman, Randolph’s president. “For those who were here during the coeducation decision, it brought about many unpleasant memories. Yet you could not help but feel a sense of gratitude that our College had made its difficult decisions years ago and emerged from the transition in a stronger financial position.”
The financial difficulties at Sweet Briar have also prompted concerns and questions from the College’s alumnae and alumni, who expressed a desire to know more about the College’s own current financial situation.
“Randolph has made significant improvements since the decision to go coed in 2006—financially, academically, and in student life,” Bateman said. “The College today offers our students an exceptional liberal arts education designed to prepare them to be successful no matter where their lives take them.”
The College’s endowment was able to withstand the turbulent Great Recession thanks to careful management and now stands at $157 million. Randolph has seen enrollment growth five of the last six years and currently has nearly 700 students.
Giving continues to improve, and gifts from alumnae and alumni have allowed the College to make important and necessary improvements to campus, including the $6 million Student Center renovation, residence hall and dining hall improvements, a complete renovation of Wright Hall, and many other infrastructure enhancements.
Academically, Randolph remains fiercely committed to providing the strong, liberal arts education that has been the hallmark of the College since its founding as Randolph- Macon Woman’s College in 1891. A student-centered advising program and exceptional faculty help provide students the best of the liberal arts.
“We are very proud of how far the College has come,” Bateman said. “However, we still have a ways to go before our goals are realized. This is a difficult time for most small, liberal arts colleges as we battle an increasing public perception that a liberal arts foundation is of little value, a still-recovering economy, and the ever-present demands of a campus filled with beautiful, yet expensive-tomaintain historic buildings.”
Suzanne Bessenger, a religious studies professor, teaches class.
Randolph is fortunate to have an endowment of $157 million and a strong financial position. More than a third of the endowment (approximately $54 million) is unrestricted. The remainder is either permanently restricted (about $79 million) or temporarily restricted (approximately $24 million).
“Because the endowment is crucial to the operations of Randolph, the Board of Trustees has chosen to invest it conservatively, so as to not experience large losses during difficult economic climates,” said James Manaro, vice president for finance and administration.
Over the past five years, the endowment has experienced 8.7 percent in annualized returns.
Various scores are used to indicate the financial strength of a college. The federal government uses the Financial Responsibility Composite Score, which rates the financial strength of institutions from -1 to 3, with 3 being the best score. Randolph scores a three on this scale. The Composite Financial Index rates schools on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best score. In recent years, Randolph has scored above 6.0 and received a 9.07 in 2014.
The College’s strength is due primarily to four factors: the size of the endowment; increasing enrollment, which increases net tuition revenue; financial support from alumnae, alumni, and friends; and strong fiscal management.
Randolph entered the 2015-16 academic year with approximately $23 million in debt. The College was recently reaffirmed by Standards and Poors with an A-minus stable bond rating. The net assets of the College have grown to $209 million.
“During the most challenging days of the coed transition and economic downturn, Randolph practiced strong fiscal management—and continues this practice today,” Manaro said.
“The College made necessary cutbacks when required but has also since strategically invested in areas designed to help the College grow its enrollment. The College continues to receive clean annual audits.”
Randolph has experienced marked enrollment growth since the coeducation decision, when enrollment dropped to a low of 500 due to a mix of the bad economy and the negative atmosphere on campus.
Randolph’s total enrollment has grown more than 40 percent since 2009, and has reached nearly 700.
The increased net tuition revenue has allowed Randolph to dramatically reduce its endowment draw (the money from the endowment used each year to balance the budget). Prior to the coed decision, the average net tuition revenue per student was approximately $9,600. Today, it tops $12,000 on average.
As a result, the draw on the endowment has dropped from 9.8 percent in 2007 to less than 6.6 percent in recent years. Randolph must continue to make progress to bring this draw to no more than 5 percent.
The College plans to grow its enrollment to its capacity of 800 residential students, or about 900 in total student population.
Welcome to the Jungle social night at the student center
One obstacle for smaller liberal arts colleges is convincing students and their parents of the value of this type of degree. While the “sticker price” for colleges has continued to rise, so has the amount of financial aid offered to students. Randolph has remained committed to making the education we offer affordable. For instance, our tuition is listed as $34,800. However, thanks to grants, scholarships, and other aid, a typical student will pay only $10,000 to $12,000 annually in tuition—a cost that is actually lower than many Virginia public institutions.
“When you look for an education that can best prepare you for a lifetime of successful employment and that is affordable, there is no better place to look than a place like Randolph,” Bateman said.
The College has a long history of generous support from alumnae and alumni. This financial support allows the College, in part, to provide such things as funding for faculty salaries, scholarship aid to students, enhanced academic programs, and improved facilities.
Recent gifts have allowed the College to make necessary improvements to campus, including major renovations and infrastructure enhancements.
“Financial support from our alumnae and alumni is a vital part of the College’s future success,” said Skip Kughn, interim vice president for institutional advancement. “This generosity enables us to continue the tradition of excellence that was the hallmark of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.”
Fortunately, alumnae and alumni giving is increasing. The percentage of alumni giving for 2014-15 was 24 percent, compared to a low of 16 percent in 2007-08. In addition, giving to the Annual Fund—which provides vital support for the day-to-day operations of the College—has averaged over $2 million even throughout the most difficult years of the coed transition.
This year’s giving to the Annual Fund, $2,228,776, marked the second highest total in eight years. Reunion giving reached nearly $829,000, the highest in nine years. Overall giving increased to $10 million, which is the largest fundraising total in seven years.
“We are fortunate to have caring alumnae and alumni who are committed to supporting Randolph College and the excellent liberal arts education we provide to students,” Bateman said. “Whether they give to the Annual Fund, endowed funds, or to fund special capital projects, their financial support is vital and much appreciated by all of us on campus.”
Thanks in large part to financial support from many generous alumnae, Randolph has been able to make significant improvements to campus over the past five years.
A $6 million renovation to the Student Center created an award-winning facility focused on providing modernized, comfortable spaces for students, faculty, and staff alike. The main floor of the library was renovated.
Cheatham Dining Hall renovation – Summer 2015.
Several residence halls received updates, and most recently Wright Hall and Cheatham Dining Hall have been extensively renovated, thanks in large part to alumnae support.
In addition, the College purchased and renovated an apartment complex adjacent to campus. The Grosvenor Apartments opened to students last fall, providing a new apartment-style living option. In the spring, Randolph received a $2 million anonymous gift for infrastructure enhancements. The gift is allowing the College to upgrade the campus electric and heating systems.
“Maintaining the historic nature of buildings while also modernizing them to function effectively for today’s students is often challenging and expensive,” Bateman said. “This donor’s decision to financially support improvements to Randolph’s campus will have a positive effect on the day-to- day life of our students, faculty, and staff.”
The Liberal Arts
As the College’s alumnae and alumni know, the reason people with traditional liberal arts educations fare well over a lifetime of employment is simple: They have exactly the skills that employers say they want in new college graduates. Many surveys show that the skill in highest demand is the ability to communicate clearly. It is virtually impossible to spend four years at a small, liberal arts college and not learn how to speak and write clearly and concisely. Liberal arts college graduates also develop two other skills that employers consistently place at the top of their priorities for new hires: they can solve complex problems and know how to work in small groups with people not like themselves.
“Here at Randolph, we remain staunchly committed to providing the best of the liberal arts,” Bateman said. “That’s the foundation that has carried the College forward for nearly 125 years, and it is the basis that will ensure that we are successful long into the future. Over the past year, we have worked diligently to be a voice in the national arena championing the liberal arts. Whether through editorials in national media such as The New York Times, promoting our success stories and messages in publications, or joining the other colleges in social media campaigns about the liberal arts, Randolph is working to tell the real success stories behind the liberal arts.”
Vibrant Past, Strong Present, Amazing Future
First-Year Move-in Day at Randolph College, 2015
For Bateman, the 2015-16 academic year marks his third at the College. “One of the best parts of my job,” he said, “has been traveling the country meeting our alumnae and alumni and hearing your stories about the College and how it has affected your life.”
Bateman hopes the survey conducted last year will help the College find ways to better connect with more alumnae and alumni. “If there is one thing we’ve learned from the results of the recent alumnae and alumni survey, it is that communication is the real key to our success with our constituents,” he said. “We need to strengthen how we communicate with our alumnae and alumni, as well as help them better communicate with us.”
Alumnae and alumni, he added, are the lifeblood of the institution.
“Randolph is well-poised for the future,” Bateman said. “We have made significant progress over the years and are well on our way to meeting our long-term goals. However, there is still much work to do. As a small, liberal arts college, we can never rest in our quest for greatness, or else we will fall behind.
“I encourage our alumnae and alumni to join with us as we embrace our future,” Bateman added. “Your support is vital, and your involvement is crucial to ensuring that Randolph continues to prepare students to embrace the life more abundant.
Simply put, your College needs you.”