News & Publications
Letter Home, Spring 2009
Update: St. John's and the Economy
Ensuring quality in the classroom and a continued commitment to financial aid are the college' first priorities during this recession, says Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John's College, Annapolis. "We have the resources to support financial aid and we plan no reductions that would affect instruction," says Mr. Nelson. The college's governing board in January approved a 2.9 percent increase in tuition, the lowest in 30 years.
Mr. Nelson says the college is planning for an extended economic downturn of three years or more. However, he is encouraged by some good signs"
"The economy has affected us most in our endowment, but our investment returns are much better than most other colleges," Mr. Nelson says. The college's fiscal policies allow it to draw up to 5.5 percent from endowment to support operations.
As an institution that has always operated with a lean administration, St. John's has not had to consider furloughs (as Maryland's state institutions have announced), but the college is evaluating all open positions, slowing down hiring when possible, and trimming budgets in all departments. Guiding all of the college's decisions right now, he says, "is a commitment to providing the same quality student experience. We don't want to make any sacrifices in instruction."
While Mr. Nelson says the recession could have a more serious effect on the college in the coming years, St. John's is better positioned because of its successful capital campaign. The college raised $134 million in the campaign that ended June 30, 2008. "We're stronger than we were during the economic downtown of 1990-91," he notes, "and we've had a surprising number of new gifts. As a result of the campaign, we have a strong base of support. Many people feel the college is important, and they are contributing."
The college also recently completed a host of major capital improvement projects, including the heating plant project and installation of new sprinklers in dormitories. "We may look to defer smaller projects when possible," he said.
Acknowledging that the college may not hear about students who are concerned about finances, Mr. Nelson encourages families to contact the Assistant Dean's Office (410-626-2512) with questions or concerns.