Middlebury College sets fund-raising goal at $500M

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College could break records with a $500 million fund-raising campaign, which, over the next five years, will fund objectives outlined in a recently revamped strategic plan, including increasing the faculty-student ratio, strengthening the financial aid program and improving student housing.

While the college’s board of trustees has not yet approved this figure, college officials said last week nothing short of this amount will allow them to implement the full strategic plan.

Such an ambitious goal, among the largest fund-raising goals ever set by a liberal arts institution of its size, will require the institution to look beyond its existing donor-base of alumni, parents of current students and friends, to other universities and organizations that support Middlebury’s mission to be globally minded, said Dean of Planning John Emerson.

Goals of the strategic plan approved by trustees last May, which was the first update to the college’s educational roadmap since 1992, highlight Middlebury College’s commitment to expanding its horizons, not only in its range of supporters, but in the students it admits and the academic opportunities it offers them. 

According to Emerson, who chaired the strategic committee last spring, the college will use about 20 percent of the funds raised to gradually increase financial aid grants. That will reduce the amount of money students are expected to borrow in loans and ensure that students who may not have been able to afford the ever-increasing comprehensive tuition fee for a Middlebury education, now $44,330 a year, have an opportunity to attend.

“We’re making sure that the most qualified students have access to the best schools, and it’s expensive to do that,” Emerson said. This anticipated $100 million endowment will support students throughout their four years at the school.

Another 17 percent of the college’s goal, about $85 million, will endow 25 new faculty positions, added gradually over eight to 10 years. The endowment of a professorship, like the recently announced Rehnquist Chair of American History and Culture, usually costs about $2.5 million, according to Emerson.

With no plans to increase the student population, Emerson said the college hopes to increase the ratio of students to faculty, allowing every student the opportunity before they graduate to work one-on-one with a professor in the completion of an independent study project.

NEW DORMS POSSIBLE

In the long run, Emerson said, a focus of the plan will be to improve student housing, particularly for upperclassmen. New dormitories won’t be constructed until at least 2010, he said, but the college hopes by that time to build desirable senior housing that will limit the number of students who seek to live off campus.

“We don’t want to be a burden on the community’s housing stock,” he said.

College officials will announce details of the fund-raising campaign, including an exact monetary goal, in the fall of 2007. In the meantime, the college is engaged in what Liebowitz called a “silent phase” of preceding the campaign proper, ensuring that $500 million is an attainable goal.

But the fund raising is well on it way. Already, he confirmed, the institution has received over $200 million in pledges.

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