When I began my presidency, many of you asked how you might help support the College and its students. I answered that there are several ways that alumni, parents, and friends can help - by spreading the word about Gettysburg College, by helping to recruit prospective students, by providing career-related opportunities (internships, externships, job shadowing), and by providing financial support.
In today's economic climate, your help in all of these areas is essential. There is, however, a critical area that I want to bring to your attention - and that is our need for student scholarship support. We must enhance our capability in this area if we are to continue to remain competitive in attracting a student body that is well qualified and increasingly diverse.
Currently, nearly 70 percent of our students receive some form of financial assistance - a figure that surprises many people who think that our students graduate with large amounts of debt. In fact, because of our ongoing commitment to financial aid, our students don't graduate with any more debt than students who graduate from Penn State. Our presence on the Princeton Review's 2011 list of Best Value Colleges reflects both the quality of our academic program and our efforts to make a Gettysburg College education affordable to those students with financial need.
Despite our considerable success in providing scholarships and financial aid, the fact remains that we will be hard-pressed to meet the rising need for additional student aid in the future. A look at the schools with which we compete most closely for students reveals that we are at a distinct disadvantage with regard to the funding of financial aid. Those schools are able to fund significantly more of their student financial aid through support generated by their endowment. Our endowment supports only 7.3 percent of the aid we provide. The rest comes out of our operating budget.
There are a variety of views one could take on why increasing support for student financial aid is important. My personal perspective is that a Gettysburg College education should be available to all deserving students, not just those who can afford it without aid. Many of our current alumni would not have been able to attend Gettysburg without the financial aid they were offered, and they have a special appreciation for this kind of support.
In addition, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for leadership in a diverse, multicultural, interconnected world. The ability to understand and build relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds is essential, and we must provide our students with the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of peers, faculty, and staff during their time on campus. Building a more diverse student community requires that we provide the financial support necessary to make Gettysburg a realistic option for students from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
I am extremely pleased to announce that we are already making progress in our efforts to increase our endowment for scholarships. In the past months the College has received two $1-million gifts for scholarship support. One gift comes from the Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation, which primarily makes grants to organizations and institutions located in Central or Eastern Pennsylvania. The second gift is from Gettysburg alumna Daria (LoPresti) Foster '76.
These two gifts represent a substantial beginning to our efforts to increase the endowment for scholarships. I am grateful to the Stabler Foundation for its support of our students, and I extend heartfelt thanks to Daria Foster, an individual whose personal commitment to scholarship support is exemplary.
As we near the completion of the fiscal year here at Gettysburg, I encourage you to consider a gift - or an additional gift - in support of Gettysburg College students.
Janet Morgan Riggs '77
About The President
Janet Morgan Riggs is Gettysburg College's 14th president. She has served her alma mater in a variety of faculty and administrative roles for 27 years. From March 2008 to February 2009, she served as interim president prior to being named president. She also served as provost for one year, after having served as interim provost in 2006-07, a post she also held in 1995-96. Dr. Riggs was also executive assistant to the president under President Gordon Haaland from 1991 to 1994.