Our plan to make Lafayette more affordable by doubling our financial aid budget is receiving broad and enthusiastic support from donors and others. Continued fundraising and increased revenue from a larger student body are already allowing us to admit more talented students without regard for their ability to pay. And that makes the College a stronger player in the competition for the best students.
But there is a second goal in our strategy—“Affordability and DISTINCTION through Growth”—that also is strengthening the education we offer at Lafayette.
When I ask alumni what was special about their Lafayette experience, the answer is nearly always the same: the influence of a faculty member who encouraged them, pushed them, advised them, recommended them, and often stayed in touch with them over the years. That’s why it is important to our plan that as we grow the College by 400 students, we’re also creating 40 new faculty positions to maintain a close 10:1 student-faculty ratio. Thirteen of those new positions already have been filled.
What makes a Lafayette faculty member distinctive? We hire colleagues who have scholarly credentials that would qualify them for a research university position, but who choose Lafayette because they are equally passionate about teaching, especially in a context where student-faculty interactions are valued. At a time when many universities are hiring more part-time instructors and fewer tenure-track faculty, all of the new faculty hired as part of our plan are tenure-track professors whom we mentor, develop, and hope to retain for a lifetime. They in turn are deeply committed to the College and deeply invested in the success of our students.
Expanding the faculty allows us to expand the curriculum as well, and the faculty already are taking full advantage of this flexibility. This year we are introducing two curricular enhancements that set us apart from our peers. One is a new data science minor that will focus on ethics, in addition to data management and visualization. The other is a new B.S. degree in interdisciplinary engineering that, together with our B.S. degrees in engineering’s big four (chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical) and our B.A. in engineering studies, give Lafayette one of the nation’s most comprehensive engineering programs.
Athletics, too, is a distinctive feature of the Lafayette experience. Nearly one-fourth of our students compete in NCAA Division I sports, and our athletics strategic plan to Create a Championship Culture already is paying dividends. Heading into November, we have seen an early season 10-game winning streak from women’s volleyball; field hockey, women’s soccer, and men’s soccer qualify for Patriot League tournament play; and back-to-back wins from the football team against Patriot League rivals. The academic performance of our student-athletes also helps raise our institutional profile, as Lafayette now ranks seventh among NCAA programs nationwide in Graduation Success Rate.
A larger, stronger, and more diverse student body improves the educational experience for
all students at any college, including here. That’s why our plan starts with affordability. But not many colleges can provide access to the broad, integrated, and personal education we provide. That’s what is distinctively Lafayette.