Kenyon Admissions and the EconomyGAMBIER, Ohio (December 22, 2008)
With the January 15 application deadline approaching, we sat down with Dean of Admissions Jennifer Delahunty to ask some questions about what college applicants should know in this economic crisis.
Q: First, let's talk about people's anxieties. With the economy in recession, families are more worried than ever about financial aid. Has the economic crisis affected Kenyon's ability to offer aid?
A: No. Financial aid is essential to Kenyon, and the trustees and members of the senior staff have made a commitment to protect those funds so that we can continue to support both currently enrolled students and those students who will be joining the Kenyon College Class of 2013. Contingency funds are in place should the demand for aid be higher than it has been in the past.
Q: Does Kenyon have to cut its financial-aid budget or change its policies?
A: Again, a solid "no." Kenyon is one of a handful of colleges that meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all four years of a student's college career, and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our more than $20 million investment in financial aid is untouched in next year's budget planning. In fact, last year our aid budget was increased as a result of a large gift to our capital campaign. Before his death, Paul Newman gave us the resources for Newman's Own Foundation Scholars, a program that enables a small number of the most financially needy students to attend Kenyon loan-free. About 70 percent of Kenyon students receive some form of financial aid. We are prepared for that figure to increase.
Q: How has Kenyon as an institution been affected by the economy?
A: We are actively engaged in addressing the economic downturn by scouring every line in our budget to identify cost-cutting measures. We are rebidding several building projects to identify savings there as well. Fortunately, Kenyon has a long history of fiscal discipline — balanced budgets for 39 straight years, with contingency reserves set aside to weather periods like this one. While modest, our endowment is invested carefully and we've seen less of a downturn than many of our peer colleges.
Q: If a family loves what Kenyon has to offer but is concerned about costs, what would you advise?
A: Several things. First, I would encourage families to continue to seek that college that best fits your student's needs — in other words, don't rule out Kenyon or any institution based on perceived costs. Second, I would think of a higher education in the context of a life-long investment. You can think of dividing the cost into "thirds" — you pay a third of a college education from savings, a third from current earnings, and a third through reasonable loans. Our average student on aid graduates with less than $20,000 in loans.
Q: Private colleges like Kenyon represent a significant investment. Why is a Kenyon education worth the money?
A: That's the key question! There is a positive intensity here — in the classroom, in student activities, in athletics — which inspires Kenyon students to stretch themselves in extraordinary ways. Kenyon faculty not only counsel students carefully, but they empower (even inspire) students to pursue their dreams. The zeal with which our faculty teach and advise is simply unrivaled. I can think of dozens of stories of students who are doing remarkable things they never imagined possible, and that is due, in large part, to our faculty. My own daughter Emma (Kenyon Class of 2008) had absolute first-rate advising, and is now interning in Washington, D.C., for the Grupo de los Cincuenta, a nonprofit organization for business leaders in the Americas — an ideal first assignment for an international studies major with a focus on South America. Career and graduate school advising, a robust and active parent and alumni career network . . . there are many ways that Kenyon sets up graduates to become successful. But perhaps our graduates' greatest asset is their vision, the ability to believe that they can do whatever they imagine with their lives.