April 1, 2014
Last year, Brandeis launched a bold and ambitious strategic plan with some challenging fiscal goals. Our community came together, supporting Brandeis as a place of intense intellectual pursuit with a goal of building on our exceptional academic and campus experience, and our historic commitment to access. Doing so requires that we become far more efficient, and expand the generous philanthropic support of our alumni and friends. Our financial model to support the plan projected annual increases in the total cost of attendance of approximately 4 percent annually, even with improved efficiency and increased donations. I am gratified to say that we are ahead of plan and thus able to reduce that projected increase for next year.
There are several areas of success to share with you. Efficiency initiatives have been even more successful than we projected, including a major investment in our energy systems yielding environmental as well as financial benefits, and renegotiated contracts with vendors to decrease our costs while improving student services. I am also deeply grateful for the support of our donors, particularly in the momentum they are creating for a major initiative to support student scholarships. I am pleased that, thanks to our improved efficiency and committed donors, we have exceeded our annual target, and the Board is able to reflect that in our student charges for next year.
As a result, at its meeting last week, the Brandeis University Board of Trustees voted to increase annual billed charges by 3.7 percent. While I know very well that no increases are welcome, this keeps the increase substantially below the level envisioned in the strategic plan; both the Board and the administration are very sensitive to the need to control, insofar as possible, the cost of a Brandeis University education.
At the same time, this increase supports several initiatives critical to our students and their families, foremost of which is maintaining our historical commitment to financial aid.
Additional efforts under way include:
- Accelerating employer outreach in the Hiatt Career Center as we seek to build on our exceptional 95 percent placement rate within six months of graduation.
- Expanding our student offices in community services and LGBTQ services, responding to specific requests by our student body.
- Continuing our investment in campus infrastructure with a long-anticipated renovation of the Usdan dining area, as well as refurbishing the Foster Mods, and renovating part of the Ziv residence halls.
- Donors have also made it possible to provide a state-of-the-art upgrade to one of our feature lecture halls and support a new building for the Lemberg Children's Center, which will be self-sustaining while offering expanded student employment opportunities.
- We will also see the addition of a true regional landmark with the installation of a massive light sculpture outside the Rose Art Museum by renowned artist Chris Burden. The Burden sculpture was commissioned exclusively with restricted art acquisition funds.
- Several dynamic new faculty hires will maintain our low faculty-to-student ratio that is essential to maintaining our tradition of highly personalized and engaged educational opportunities.
I am also thrilled to be able to tell you that we have already exceeded one-third of our goal to raise $100 million for scholarships, the Catalyst Fund, launched by the Board in January. Thanks to the generosity of friends and alumni committed to our historical goal of access to outstanding higher education, the Catalyst Fund will provide current and endowed scholarships for students today and well into the future.
Brandeis is making significant progress in balancing the critical priorities of maintaining the highest-quality undergraduate education for our students, moderating the financial burden that any increase places on students and families, and competing to hire and retain the finest possible faculty and support the close contact of students and faculty that is a hallmark of a Brandeis education. All of these efforts are dedicated to delivering the educational excellence that your family expects and that lies at the heart of the Brandeis experience.
All of us at Brandeis look forward to the year ahead as one of continued success and accomplishment for our students, your sons and daughters.
Frederick M. Lawrence