You probably have heard me brag that over the last few years Lafayette’s applicant pool has become larger and stronger than at any time in the College’s history. This year, we received over 8,400 applications, a new high that followed several other record years. Our distinctive liberal arts and engineering education is drawing top applicants from around the country and around the world.
But there is a downside to this strong interest. Each year, we see more talented students whom we have to turn away because we do not have enough financial aid to offer them. We do the best we can, but increasingly our budget runs short long before we run out of great applicants.
Knowing a wide range of students from all kinds of backgrounds is what a residential liberal arts education is all about. When we turn away talented students because they can’t afford a Lafayette education, our entire community suffers.
We would like to be able to admit qualified students regardless of their ability to pay. We know it will be a heavy lift. Our plans call for additional financial aid resources to be funded in part by increasing the size of the student body, bringing additional tuition revenue, and reallocating some merit scholarships to need-based aid.
Fundraising also is critical to this effort, which is why I have launched the President’s Challenge for Financial Aid. Under the rallying cry “Bring the Best to Lafayette,” we are seeking to raise the considerable funds needed to make this dream a reality. Current and emeritus members of the Board of Trustees have stepped up to support the President’s Challenge by pledging $10 million to date.
Before publicly launching the President’s Challenge on Founder’s Day, March 9, I played a co-starring role in a four-week video campaign of random “challenges” to build excitement and curiosity about our plans.
If I learned one thing from doing the Ice Bucket Challenge—a video that got more views than any of my speeches!—it is that people enjoy seeing college presidents drenched, embarrassed, or otherwise doing the unexpected. I hope these videos convey how strongly I feel about this effort.
I hope you, too, will be inspired to join me in this challenge. The very best liberal arts colleges accept students without regard to family resources. This gives them a competitive advantage in recruiting highly qualified students from varied economic and demographic backgrounds. Lafayette College belongs in that group.
Having a diverse student body improves every aspect of campus life, not only for students who receive aid to come to Lafayette, but for their classmates, teammates, and friends. I look forward to working with all of you to continue to strengthen the dynamic community that makes Lafayette so special.