President’s Report: State of Pitzer College 2007
October 23, 2007
Five years have passed since I began my tenure as president of Pitzer College and over that period of time as the direct outcome of our community working together, the College has strengthened its financial foundation, admissions, retention, academic program, student affairs, fundraising, facilities and public profile. My years spent at Pitzer have been very rewarding both personally and professionally, and I am continually gratified and thankful that my family is part of this wonderful community.
The College’s endowment has increased more than 136% during the past five years. In the summer of 2002, the year I arrived, the endowment stood at $45,111,000 and it stands today at nearly $110,000,000. Last year Pitzer’s investment return on the endowment was 24% (the same as Dartmouth) as compared to Harvard’s 23% and University of Pennsylvania’s 20.2%. The average return nationally was 10.5%.
In 2006-07, Pitzer’s tuition and fees increased by 4.96% while nationally tuition at private four-year colleges increased on average by 5.9%. Pitzer’s 2007-08 tuition and fee increase is 5.5%. Information is not yet available for 2007-08 national trends in tuition increases, but it is probable that the national average increase will be above the rate of inflation and higher than Pitzer’s rate of increase. Pitzer’s annual tuition increases have averaged 4.7% during the last ten years, well below the national average of 5.4% for four-year private institutions during the same period. As a result, Pitzer’s total fees now rank more favorably within a group of peer and aspirant institutions. For the second year in a row Pitzer will have the lowest tuition cost ($32,704) and the second lowest price for tuition, room and board ($46,126) for the five Claremont undergraduate colleges.
This year in admissions, the College received its highest number of applicants 3,747 (in 2002 there were 2,323). As a result, the College the lowest acceptance rate in its history, 26%, a 12% decrease over last year (in 2002 the acceptance rate was 56%). Our yield this year is 25% (compared to 18% last year), and we have maintained the percentage of students of color in our committed class at 30%. The incoming GPA for our students has increased from 3.52 in 2002 to 3.72 in 2007, and approximately 50% of this year’s incoming class has chosen the SAT optional alternative.
The College has experienced a marked increase in student retention. This year there was a 5% increase in retention from first to second year students—89% to 94%, a record percentage. Our 4-year graduation rate also increased 6%, from 64% to 70%, the highest in the College’s history. For our class of 2007 the graduation rate of students of color also increased: Asian American students from 70.8% to 89.3%, Latino/a students from 67.6% to 80%, and African American students from 44.4% to 62.5%.
Over the past five years, the College has hired 16 tenure-track faculty, including the College’s first art historian. In the 2006 – 07 academic year we undertook four tenure track searches and in the fall of 2007, we welcomed new faculty in Sociology, Economics, and Political Studies (a fourth search for a new faculty in International and Intercultural Studies/Environmental Studies was also successful, although the candidate was granted a one-year deferral in order to complete post-doctoral study). This year we will search for tenure track positions in Philosophy, Ceramics, Creative Writing, and Sociology and we will hire a Writing Center Director. To better support all faculty, in accordance with the tactical plan, funds for faculty research have been increased as have salaries. Assistant and Associate rank Pitzer faculty are currently compensated at the 95th percentile of AAUP, with senior faculty 98 % within the 95th percentile—the across the board raise for faculty this year averaged 6.8 %. The College has committed to hire faculty until a 10/1 student faculty ratio is reached. With these new hires as of Fall 2007, 45% of Pitzer’s faculty are female and 36% are underrepresented minorities, which puts us within sight of the goal set by College Council to strive for 50% or more women and 50% or more underrepresented minorities on the faculty during the period 2001 – 2015. Pitzer College has the most diverse faculty in the Claremont Consortium.
Three years ago, a 5-college neuroscience program was established. Since then a 5-college media studies program has emerged and a new field group, Creative Studies, has been added to the curriculum. Pitzer has also functioned as the lead college for Joint Science administration for the past three years and Joint Science faculty were included in the planning process for the anticipated new science building. This summer the College hired a full-time art gallery director who will establish a regular exhibit schedule as well as work with senior art students and offer a course on curatorial studies. To enhance our co-curricular offerings, over the past five years the College has also received endowment funds establishing the Steve and Sandy Glass humanities lecture ($100,000), the Murray and Vicki Pepper Visiting Artist fund ($150,000) and the Jill Ford Harmon ’68 Faculty/Student summer Research Fund ($250,000).
This year’s across the board increase for staff salaries was 5%; after implementation of the wage and salary program the overall effect resulted in 6.3%, keeping us well within the target goals for the staff wage and salary program. The Claremont Colleges staff salary increase averaged 3.78%.
I am particularly pleased about the increased diversity of Pitzer staff. During the past five years for all staff, staff of color have increased by 3% to 48% and women make up 64%. For administrators only, staff of color have increased by 10% to 30% and women administrators (grade 5 and above) have increased by 16% for a total of 64% since 2003 – 04.
There is increased funding for staff development as the result of the tactical plan and last year a new yoga program for staff was implemented at the request of the Staff Council Representatives (SCR).
Pitzer students are greatly interested in increasing our drought tolerant plantings, working in the community garden, doing co-curricular programming and participating in community partnerships. The most recent senior survey (class of 2007) stated that the College is enjoying much greater success in inculcating students with Pitzer values. For the class graduating in May 2007, the annual HEDS (Higher Education Data Sharing) survey showed that by comparison Pitzer’s graduating seniors are generally more satisfied with their experience than students at peer colleges in a number of key categories. Pitzer students are more satisfied than students at peer colleges in the areas of student voice in policies, student representation in government, sense of community on campus, social life on campus, ethnic/racial diversity, climate for minority students, student center programs and student center facilities. Pitzer students are more likely to feel their college experience greatly enhanced their abilities to develop an awareness of social problems, place problems in historical perspective, understand moral and ethical issues, and relate to people of different races, nations and religions. Finally, Pitzer students more often felt an ability to engage in class presentations and group projects, attend cultural events, actively participate in organized demonstrations and hold discussions with students of different beliefs.
During the past four years, programming for students has increased due to the inclusion of additional funding in the tactical plan and, with its 50 senators, Pitzer has the largest Student Senate in the consortium and intramurals and clubs on campus are very active.
For the past four years with the generous assistance of trustee Arnie Palmer there has been an annual dinner held to recognize the special contributions that student athletes make to Pitzer. Furthermore, a trophy case has been installed at the entrance of the cafeteria to highlight their accomplishments. There are but a handful of schools in the United States that can boast of the academic standing of Pitzer and Pomona Colleges, and still have a winning football program. Since 1995, the Sagehens (62%) have a better winning percentage than Stanford (49%), Cal (38%), Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (44%), and Occidental (42%). It is a testament that strong academics and athletics can co-exist.
Pitzer’s financial outlook is of course also dependent upon our fundraising, which has significantly strengthened during the past five years. The College has been in continuous campaign mode since 1997. The first comprehensive campaign ($40 million) surpassed its goal ahead of schedule and secured a $5 million gift (the largest in the College’s history). The College then immediately moved into a capital campaign for the purpose of funding the first phase of the residence hall project, with the goal of $18 million surpassed and a total of $19,051,000 raised to date. Durng the past five years, total contributions to the Annual Fund increasing by 32%, with online contributions have increased by 144 %, and contributors at the President’s Circle (gifts of $1,000+) level having increased by 37 %. Also during the past five years the number of alumni contributors at the President’s Circle level has increased 28% and the number of parent contributors at the President’s Circle level has increased 46%.
Student participation in the senior gift remained at 100% for the second year in a row (winning the Claremont Colleges pig contest again) and faculty and staff participation totaled 85%. The Fabian Nuñez fundraiser, now in its third year, has become the College’s signature fundraiser with more than $250,000 raised, allowing the establishment of an endowment for $100,000. The silent auction at family weekend, also in its third year, raised $55,000. We will continue to capitalize these fundraisers with expectations of increased totals for this coming year.
This year we formalized our outreach through establishing the Pitzer Parent Association as well as the Parent Leadership Council. The Council meets twice a year on the Pitzer College campus to discuss programming for Parent Orientation, Family Weekend, the Silent Auction and fundraising. The Council president for this year is trustee Paula Pretlow P’08, who has established a clear vision and forward looking direction.
Within higher education there is debate regarding the relative merits of US News & World Report’s annual college rankings of the nation’s 266 liberal arts colleges; however, their “America’s Best Colleges” issue continues to strongly influence students’ choice of college. This year U.S. News ranked Pitzer College 49th overall in the nation among liberal arts colleges, increasing from 51st place from last year and from 70th five years ago. Pitzer’s rankings reflect continued strong placements in all categories, particularly among academic quality, reputation, selectivity and endowment. The College continues to maintain that the right fit for prospective students translates into a match between the student and Pitzer’s mission and core values and our Admission Office continues to recommend that prospective students explore their options on numerous levels beyond the college ranking books.
Board of Trustees
The board has selected the new incoming Chair for her initial term of 2008 – 2011, alumna Robin Kramer ’75. This is a proud moment in Pitzer’s history, as Robin will be the first Pitzer alum to chair the board. During the past year, the Pitzer Board of Trustees has been active in advancing critical College initiatives: They have supported the Residential Life campaign, helped close the Mellon Foundation fundraising challenge grant, met the Kresge challenge grant, approved the sale of the Holden property, overseen trustee governance revisions, and recruited new trustees, most recently having elected alums John Landgraf ’84, Debra Yang ’81, Susan Hollander ’79, and Susan Nathan Sholl ’76. Overall board composition is approximately 1/3 alumni, 1/3 parents and 1/3 friends of the College; roughly half men and half women; and 5% African American, 8% Asian American, and 8% Chicano/Latino.
Tactical Plan Status
Pitzer’s tactical five year funding priorities, beginning in 2004 and ending in 2009, were approved by the Board of Trustees in February 2004. By the end of 2007–08, the College will have funded within the institutional budget approximately $2.1 million, or 92% of these priorities. In total funding through various accounts including contingency, the College funded approximately $1.7 million or 70% by the end of June 2007. Our current funding status includes 75% of the funding priority of additional financial aid to attract a more diverse student body, 78% of the priority to add 5 new tenure-track positions to improve the student/faculty ratio, 100% of the funding priority to enhance the first year experience programming, 136% of the funding priority to enhance faculty salaries, 148% of the funding priority to enhance faculty research funds.
Summer School and Campus Projects
Pitzer’s summer school continued to grow with an enrollment of 150 students, an increase of 134% over the first year of summer school in 2004 with 64 enrolled students. This summer all of Pitzer’s original academic buildings were painted in the colors of the new residence halls (excepting Avery since it is slated for remodeling later this year), visually integrating the campus. The Gold Student Center, one of three Gwathmey Siegel buildings on campus, was also painted in the original color palette selected for Gold as well as the two Broad buildings. A great deal of landscaping work was done this summer: most notably the Scott Hall courtyard, with native and drought tolerant plants; the size of the organic garden footprint was increased; Ninth Street and the Pitzer Road were newly landscaped; and a sidewalk south of McConnell (where formerly the only pedestrian option was to walk in the street) was established. Foliage in that area has been cleared for a spring mural painting course that will utilize the south wall of McConnell. A mile-long par course is currently being installed, thanks to the generosity of Halford Fairchild, a senior faculty member in Psychology.
Of course the largest project this summer was the construction of our new residence halls. At just under 100,000 square feet, this is the largest construction project the College has undertaken since the building of the original campus. With four buildings containing student residences and numerous offices, and the expectation that the project will be awarded a Gold LEED rating for environmental sustainability, these buildings will set a new standard in college residential housing for years to come. Three years ago the College set a budget total for the project of $29 million, and it appears that we will complete the project under $30 million. Given the increase in costs of construction materials, energy and other related inputs, this is a very favorable outcome.
I am very proud of the advances Pitzer has made in the past five years and happy to have played a role in its growth as an institution and in its progress toward achieving its goals. I will conclude my report with the words of Pitzer’s first president, John Atherton. In 1964, just a year after the College’s inception, he wrote in an open letter to the community:
At Pitzer College you will be invited to embark upon an original intellectual enterprise, not merely sit in the classroom as a passive spectator. We believe that a liberal education in the very highest sense can come only through the close individual cooperation of faculty and students, and we intend to make this ideal a reality for all of us at Pitzer College.
This statement defines who we are as an institution, and after 43 years we are succeeding at a level I believe would please the founding president.