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Money and COVID

By Sean Callahan

Public and private educational institutions do not end their services when a pandemic begins. Even when schools across the nation began closing in March of 2020, online classes became the new normal for students and faculty alike. But as a side effect, assets and sources of college revenue—such as housing and dining fees—were extinguished, leaving many colleges financially burdened.

For Saint Vincent College, these assets can be seen in the 2018-2019 President’s Report, an annually released document that discloses the college’s revenues and expenses. Although it is unknown whether next year’s report will provide similar numbers due to COVID-19, the college’s largest fundraising effort to date, the Forward Always Forward campaign, just concluded this year. It surpassed its goal of $110 million to hit $118 million.

David Hollenbaugh, vice president of institutional advancement and organizer of Forward Always Forward, said that the campaign began in 2013. It only went public in 2017, and was wrapping up as the pandemic began.

“It is important to know that the pace of giving to Saint Vincent actually sustained and even grew in some ways through our generous donors’ response to the challenges of the pandemic,” Hollenbaugh said.

Furthermore, Hollenbaugh explained the campaign’s significance. $52 million helped fund renovations and new buildings, such as the Dale P. Latimer Library and The James F. Will Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Hall. More than $36 million was raised for endowment funds, which supported faculty positions, campus programs, scholarships and financial aid.

“Each and every year we have specific objectives for fundraising whether or not we are in a campaign, but a campaign is a special opportunity to highlight a vision and build community,” Hollenbaugh said.

Despite the financial success the campaign has brought the college, Hollenbaugh explained that there were still many projects to complete and initiatives to support.

Mike Hustava, senior director of marketing and communications, declined to comment on the current finances of the college, but he did suggest that enrollment remains high.

“When the residence halls are at or near capacity, it indicates strong numbers of students attending SVC and strengthens the financial position of the College,” Hustava said.

Hustava also explained the purpose behind the President’s Report. It updates the college’s annual financial statements and provides recognition of support received from alumni, friends and donors. It also highlights accomplishments and stories of the previous fiscal year.

One large item in the president’s report that significantly reduces the revenue earned by the college is scholarships offered to students. Hustava explained that the tens of millions of dollars dedicated to scholarships is a necessary price to pay to ensure students could succeed in college with the appropriate aid, even if it reduced revenue.

“Part of our mission at Saint Vincent is to make attending SVC affordable to any student who desires to be part of this community and seeks out a challenging and transformational academic experience,” Hustava said.

With the onset of online learning across the country and universities closing in-person instruction again due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, lack of tuition and housing income has financially hurt the affected schools. But Hustava said that money was not the primary purpose for reopening Saint Vincent in person.

“While we are cognizant of what other institutions may be doing, we continually focus on how to provide the experience our students desire,” Hustava said. “It was made clear last spring and during the summer that our students desired to have an on-campus experience with in-person learning.”

Hollenbaugh agreed with Hustava’s desire to benefit the students. He added that more than $28 million was raised as part of the Forward Always Forward Campaign for support of programs, projects, financial aid, athletics and campus activities.

“We have had great advancement because of the generosity of our campaign donors,” Hollenbaugh said. “We will continue to move forward and raise support whether we are in a public phase of a campaign, or planning for the next.”

There is no certainty what the next annual president’s report will bring for 2019-2020. But Hollenbaugh and Hustava remain optimistic that the future will bring good things for campus.

“The College is continuing to adapt to these circumstances by being good stewards of our resources and acting in a fiscally responsible manner,” Hustava said.


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