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Finances

The college's financial challenge

February 2013

Dear Calvin College community,

President Michael K. Le Roy, Ph.D.The other day, I was talking to a freshman who had a rough first semester. He had a great time outside the classroom, but such fun can sometimes correlate with low grades, embarrassment and disappointment. In my conversation with this student, I recalled a few instances of failure in my first year of college, which I now see as some of the most important lessons I have ever learned. I remember sitting in an economics class, listening to the lectures, reading the text and thinking I understood all there was to know about economics. My overconfidence left me baffled on the first test, which had to be one of the record-low “F” grades in the history of the college. I had never received an “F” before, and I was devastated, like Adam hiding in the garden, but my dad coached me to face the consequences, admit my arrogance, learn from my mistakes and become a different kind of student than the one who started the semester. It was a hard road, but a road I needed to travel if I were to experience the renewal my dad was calling me to. Calvin College seeks to develop agents of renewal for a broken world, and most of us are quite inspired by the new part of the renewal concept. During the Lenten season, we are reminded that renewal begins with the recognition of our brokenness, our acts of omission and commission, and our failures.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that we are communicating the results of Calvin College’s internal review of its financial situation during this Lenten season. In the fall of 2012 we commissioned an independent task force to review the college’s administration and governance in the area of finance. It has taken several months of analysis and study to gain a full and accurate understanding of all that contributed to the financial challenge the college faces today. We are sharing these results with you so that you can see what we now see about ourselves. The work of the task force, discussions among the administration and board of trustees, conversations with faculty and staff, and the analysis of our practices and culture have helped us to see we have a lot of opportunities for improvement. The report is a summary of what we have learned from the task force. It is the beginning of our agenda for institutional renewal. We recognize that this situation is complex and that there are ample opportunities for confusion. We want our community of stakeholders to have a clear understanding of our challenges and partner with us as we seek to improve Calvin College. In that regard, we will hold a Telephone Town Hall meeting in March and give you an opportunity to ask questions. Our challenges are manageable, but we will need to be disciplined and faithful, and we will need the help of our friends. As we are ahead of our fundraising goals for this year, we are grateful to our friends who have continued to show confidence in Calvin and its mission.

While the financial challenges we now face were not expected, they also represent an opportunity that God has laid before us to be witnesses to the renewal that is possible in Jesus Christ. The Gospels remind us that there is no Resurrection Sunday without the Cross of Good Friday. If we espouse renewal in our classrooms but do not model it in the administration and management of Calvin College then we risk being a clanging gong. I am inspired by the vigor with which my friends on the staff, faculty, the board of trustees and the student body have enjoined this task.

Each day I learn more about what God has promised Calvin College and I have every expectation that the renewal now taking place will make a great community even stronger.

Thank you for joining us in this project of renewal,

Michael Le Roy

Michael Le Roy

Supporting materials

Presidential Summary
Financial Review Task Force Report and Recommendations

Board of Trustees Letter
Scott Spoelhof, Chair

Related reports

The Financially Sustainable University PDF
by Bain & Company

U.S. Private College and University Medians Underscore Revenue Challenge and Mixed Outlook for Sector PDF
by Moody's Investor Service