Dear Members of the Whitman Community:
Whitman College, like all other U.S. colleges and universities, has experienced the difficult and adverse effects of the current national and global economic crisis. We write this letter to share information about the college’s situation.
The last few months have witnessed rapid deterioration of the world and U.S. economy. The value of investments held by individuals and institutions has declined significantly. Whitman is fortunate to have a solid financial footing. This has been achieved, in part, by the careful stewardship of the college’s resources by prior administrations and governing boards. We are not, however, immune to the economic forces of the last several months. Our endowment has dropped significantly with the precipitous decline in markets since the start of the college’s fiscal year on July 1. With the decline in our endowment, we expect a significant reduction in resources for the college’s budget. At the same time, we face mounting pressures concerning tuition revenue growth, increased costs in selected areas, an uncertain future for financial aid needs and short-term giving to the college.
In response to these concerns, the trustees and college staff are implementing cost-saving measures for this fiscal year and developing conservative plans for the coming years. The planning includes a review and potential delay of capital projects. While the Sherwood Center renovation will be completed (it is scheduled to be ready by fall 2009) and the Olin Hall remodel continues, other projects are being studied for their funding sources and requirements, their contributions to the college’s mission and for their long-term impact on the budget. The college’s leaders have been open with the faculty and staff about our financial challenges and our inability to offer compensation increases that reflect their many contributions to Whitman. We also are examining the needs of our current and proposed programs, working closely with faculty and staff to accord the long-term welfare of Whitman College highest priority.
Amid the current economic challenges, our goal is to protect Whitman’s core academic mission. Although we are unable to predict the extent or duration of the current economic turbulence, our contingency planning is designed to dampen the effect of a more serious and long-term economic downturn should that happen. The support shown by the Whitman community through the years has provided the college with the current financial strength to confidently address the uncertain economic future. We enrolled a talented class of 425 first-years this fall, and early indicators suggest that current high school students continue to have strong interest in attending Whitman.
In sum, we will continue to be vigilant in managing the college’s resources as the current economic situation unfolds. Despite the challenges, we are confident about the college’s future. Thank you for all your past and future support of Whitman. We wish each of you a joyous holiday season and a rewarding new year.
George S. Bridges
James Robart ’69
Chair, Board of Trustees