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Lee Capristo, editor
The Mulberry Tree
Phone: (240) 895-4795
18952 East Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD 20686
Have you been to campus lately? It's never been more beautiful or more functional. Our award-winning grounds crew creates an inspiring landscape in which to live and learn. Our new classrooms and lab spaces in Goodpaster Hall and the River Center provide students and faculty the tools they need to thrive.
It is evident in the implementation of our new Core Curriculum (developed by our faculty) that our commitment to teaching and academic excellence has never been stronger. Our ratings reflect this: In the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, St. Mary's climbed from 87th position to 84th in that magazine's annual Top 100 schools list. Our graduation rate is the highest of any of Maryland's colleges, for both minority and non-minority students. More than 60% of our students go on to graduate school.
It's our pledge-and a core component of our Honors College mission-to provide a highquality education at an affordable price. Our success in doing so has been recognized repeatedly in national college rankings. At St. Mary's, three-quarters of our students receive some form of financial aid. We set aside eight percent of our budget to financial aid. Twothirds of the aid we provide is based on financial need; one-third is based on academic merit. This ratio is reversed at most other Maryland public colleges.
This academic year, the College has 1,959 full-time students enrolled and an operating budget totaling $61.9 million, of which the State of Maryland provides approximately $17.1 million as a "block grant." The College does not receive additional operating funding from the State or local governments. Because of the provisions of the 1992 Honors College legislation and the block grant form of funding, St. Mary's did not receive special funding from the State for the purpose of holding down tuition costs. Like everyone, our costs this year are up dramatically for energy, food, retiree benefits, and facility renewal needs. These rising operating costs intensify pressure on tuition costs.
Our pledge to provide a high-quality education at an affordable price is even more difficult to keep in the current national economic crisis. But as we recall the joy we feel each Commencement as we send a new generation of students out the door to experience the world beyond, we are reminded of our duty to make sure that door stays wide open.
How are we responding to this call to duty? We're rigorously controlling costs on all fronts in pursuit of our pledge. Our administrative staff is lean-about 60% that of other schools our size. We've reduced heating oil usage by 20% (but costs are up by 80%). With the strong support of our student body, we've adopted a 100% renewable energy policy. And again, thanks to a $65,000 gift from the student body, we've installed a geothermal system in the new River Center facility that will accrue significant energy savings in the operation of that building.
You're helping too, by the gifts you made to the College during the Heritage Campaign. Thanks to you, we met our goal of $40 million and it enabled us to create 44 new annual scholarships-at twice the funding we had a decade ago.
This summer, financial aid offices at colleges and universities across the county heard an urgent call for emergency student aid. With well over 100 lenders having pulled out of the student loan market, there are fewer resources to tap. At St. Mary's, we've increased our financial aid budget to offset tuition increases. While these increases help those already in need, we are challenged to provide additional funds to help students whose families have never sought aid and are now having to do so for the first time because of the turmoil in the current economy. In addition to the credit crunch, the devaluation of real estate assets has curtailed the amount of home equity available to help families fund the cost of a college education.
In response to this latest economic challenge, our College's Foundation and the Office of Financial Aid joined forces this fall to create an Emergency Assistance Fund. This new fund has already provided emergency assistance to students who have had a sudden, dramatic change in their financial situation. The assistance can mean the difference in graduating or not for some students. But because of the volume of requests, not all the need can be met.
Higher education provides a lifetime of rewards. Please consider a gift to the Emergency Assistance Fund to help enable a student who is working toward a degree to stay here to finish that degree and join our alumni ranks. Think of it as helping to preserve the future for a fellow St. Mary's alum.
Jane Margaret O'Brien