Tightening the Belt

Tightening the Belt

SLC Copes with the Recession

The dramatic economic downturn that struck the economy in fall 2008 has not left Sarah Lawrence, or any other institution of higher education, unscathed.

“The financial assumptions underpinning our economy and higher education have shifted in dramatic and unexpected ways,” President Karen Lawrence told faculty and staff in a December memo. “Coping with the changing environment has required flexibility, patience, and creativity as we assess the impact, brainstorm responses, and plan for the future—both short- and long-term.”

As of January, the College’s endowment had lost approximately 30 percent of its value, and it was uncertain how the economic crisis would affect new applicants or returning students. To lessen the need to draw on the endowment for operating funds, the administration has identified more than $690,000 in savings for the current academic year. Efforts to find immediate and durable savings for the 2009-10 budget year continue this spring with input from the campus budget committee and the Board of Trustees.

SLC’s long-term goal is to achieve financial equilibrium while supporting its pedagogical distinctiveness, its commitment to access for students with financial need, and the outstanding tenure-track faculty and dedicated staff who help realize the mission of the College, Lawrence says. The immediate goal is to achieve a reasonable balance between expenses and revenues—an outcome that requires some difficult choices.

Maintaining a vigorous focus on fundraising is essential to Sarah Lawrence’s success, President Lawrence notes. To that end, the Office of Advancement is appealing to all alumnae/i, parents, and other friends of the College for assistance bolstering student financial aid and funds to support instructional activities.

“While much remains uncertain (e.g., admissions, retention, financial aid, and giving), we have come a long way toward a response to the immediate pressures, and we should all take pride in our respective and collective devotion to Sarah Lawrence College,” President Lawrence said. “The College will get through this difficult time thanks to our ingenuity and our shared level of commitment to its mission.”

—Todd Wilson