October 29, 2008

President Weiss’ Message on the Economy

President Daniel H. Weiss addressed the following message to alumni and friends of Lafayette in a special edition of the Marquis Mailer electronic newsletter:

Dear Member of the Lafayette Family,

As all of us are acutely aware, these are challenging economic times. There is tremendous volatility in the stock market, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict what the coming weeks, months, and years will bring. Lafayette is not immune to the effects of this turmoil.

Given the significant role that alumni and friends play in the life of the College, I wanted you to be aware of our concerns, as well as some of the actions we are taking to address them. Our three greatest concerns are the following:

  • While Lafayette’s endowment is diversified and well managed, the returns on these investments are not insulated from the current decline in the markets; our earnings this year will be significantly lower than in previous years. (Fortunately, the College factors in market performance over a number of years when it determines how much to draw from the endowment, a practice that protects us, to a degree, from dramatic shifts from one year to the next.)
  • We anticipate continued increases in the amount of financial aid required by our students. While we can accurately determine the amount of aid we need to make available to incoming students, it will be difficult to anticipate the additional assistance that currently enrolled students will need as a result of the economy’s negative impact on their families’ financial circumstances.
  • Along with our counterparts at other colleges and universities, we anticipate a potential decline in charitable giving, a drop that will affect both funding for current operations and additions to the endowment.

Although these concerns are daunting, Lafayette is fortunate to be confronting them from a position of relative strength, thanks in large measure to the substantial financial resources from which the College has long benefited and to the guidance provided by an outstanding management team that includes the Board of Trustees. Several actions have already been taken to address the current financial challenges:

  • The Board’s investment committee is working closely with our financial advisors to minimize losses during the current market downturn and to put us in the best possible position to address future market shifts.
  • We are refocusing our resources on those programs that are most critical to the College’s core mission, including the academic programs and co-curricular experiences that make a Lafayette education unique. To the extent that we can do so on a responsible financial basis, we will continue to implement the goals of the new strategic plan, though this may require some adjustments to our original timeline.
  • I have asked each member of Lafayette’s senior administrative team to trim spending in his or her division immediately. They have also been asked to identify components of their programs that are not critical to the core mission of the College, in the event that expenses need to be curtailed further either this year or next.

A great deal of uncertainty lies ahead for all of us. I remain very confident, however, that Lafayette will meet this challenge and that we will continue to provide our students with educational opportunities of the highest quality. Our alumni and friends have always responded positively when they have been invited to support the College financially, and I am hopeful that you will continue to contribute as your circumstances permit. Gifts to the Annual Fund are especially important at this time because they are applied directly toward ongoing operating needs. I assure you that we will remain good stewards of your gifts.

I sincerely appreciate your understanding and support of the College during these difficult times, and I wish you and those close to you good fortune, as well.

Daniel H. Weiss

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