With generous leadership from former Board of Trustees chair Barry F. Schwartz ’70 H’15, the College has established The President’s Fund, an endowed scholarship fund that will put a Kenyon education within the financial reach of a more diverse pool of talented students for generations to come.
Awards from The President’s Fund will be directed to underrepresented students whose family income is in the bottom 60 percent of family incomes across the U.S. The College has set an initial fundraising goal of $20 million for the fund.
President Sean Decatur said, “Barry’s leadership allows us to accelerate our progress toward making Kenyon’s excellent education accessible to more students. He recognizes the urgency of our efforts. Kenyon has made great strides in the past two decades, and we must do more in building, supporting and maintaining our diverse community, given the financial and demographic trends we see.”
In the future, the pool of the nation’s most promising students will be more ethnically diverse, more likely to be first in their families to attend college and require more financial aid, according to U.S. census data. Kenyon’s commitment to meeting a student’s full financial need means the College is limited in the number of low-income students it can admit, given Kenyon’s comparatively small endowment.
Schwartz said, “President Decatur knows we have to respond to changing demographics. The hope is that we will reach a $20 million goal because that amount is a large enough pool of money to significantly shrink the number of students that we want to admit but cannot afford to admit. And we are almost halfway to our goal.”
The President’s Fund builds on the steady progress Kenyon has made toward diversity over the last two decades. In 2000, about eight percent of Kenyon’s student body identified as a student of color, compared to 20 percent today. In 2000, only about six percent of students were first in their families to attend college; now about 10 percent of Kenyon students are first generation.
However, only nine percent of the students currently enrolled at Kenyon qualify for the Pell grant, a federal program for families whose annual income is less than about $55,000. By comparison, about 12 percent of the incoming classes of many of Kenyon’s peers are eligible for the Pell grant.
Expanding access to a Kenyon education for students from diverse backgrounds is a top priority of the Kenyon 2020 strategic plan. The plan outlines how diversity strengthens the learning environment by creating a campus and classroom environment where ideas are asserted, considered and contested from different perspectives.
Financial aid is the fastest growing item in the College’s annual budget. It totaled almost $33 million in 2016–17, and Kenyon has increased that spending on financial aid by more than 10 percent for the 2017–18 budget.
Only 12 percent of that financial aid spending is supported by endowment. As an endowed fund, The President’s Fund will expand Kenyon’s annual resources by providing vital need-based aid year after year. Endowed funds generate spendable dollars equal to approximately 4.5 percent of the fund’s market value.
Schwartz said a recent presentation of some case studies of the Kenyon admissions process was illuminating: “The admissions staff gets to a point on the admit list where they have to start paying attention to a student’s need. As they go through the list, they have to draw the line at some point, and good students get wait-listed — this is the real impact of a lack of financial aid funding.” And that’s the dynamic The President’s Fund seeks to transform for the foreseeable future.