Liberal arts colleges have been on the defense for years now, with some closing up shop such as Mount Ida college in 2018, as well as Green Mountain College and Southern Vermont College in 2019. The coronavirus crisis has removed students from their dorms and homes, workers from their place of business, and these fragile higher education institutions from the money they desperately need to survive this culling. Saint Anselm College is no different.
Before any further digression, an important note should be made: Saint Anselm College will survive the COVID-19 crisis. A robust history and administration can and will shepherd us through these difficult times, but questions have arose as to whether or not the college will emerge unscathed. Families out of work are having to tighten their belts across the country; it is not absurd to wonder whether an institution dependent on our tuition dollars will have to tighten its belt as well.
For now, the college has expressly stated that the college has no furloughs or layoffs planned, and will be paying all employees as expected through to June 30th. In a letter sent to the Saint Anselm Community, President Favazza detailed some of the impact of the virus that has already befallen the college.
$3.7 million will be returned to students to compensate for remaining room and board costs as well as costs for meal plans. Nearly four million dollars is not a small sum of money to Saint Anselm College (we could have built another Welcome Center with that money, for example). The College’s annual endowment is estimated to be down by 15% this year, and summer programs have been put on hold, with most expecting to be canceled. These programs, combined with various events throughout the year that bring in over $500,000 to the college, have been canceled, meaning that windfall of cash will not reach the college.
Most concerningly, the topic we still have the least amount of information on, along with every other higher education institution in the country, is how will this affect the enrollment of the Class of 2024? As of now, the college actually has higher enrollment than it did this time two years ago, before the record-breaking Class of 2022. The long-lasting residual effects on college enrollment remain yet to be seen.
It is not unlikely that the flow of new enrollments into the college will have an effect on layoffs and furloughs when July arrives. While it is the College’s stated mission to ride out the storm, President Favazza personally commented to the Hilltopper that, “Given all the issues we are facing at this moment, we will have some big financial challenges for next year”.
Although students have had a small say in the academic direction of the college during this time (one vote on a 30+ member committee), the future of the college rests in the hands of the President, the Monastic Community, and the Board of Trustees. Not to say that these institutions don’t have the interests of students in mind, that is their expressed occupation. It is to say, however, that often students know what is best for themselves, and should represent themselves at the highest levels of their decision making. Saint Anselm College doesn’t have this, and the need is more pressing than ever.