Over the past several months, the turmoil in the world’s financial markets has deeply affected our nation’s families, workplaces, and institutions. This is especially true here in the New York metropolitan area and I think it would be helpful to share with you how the University is responding to these economic challenges.
Seton Hall is certainly not immune from unsettling economic tides. The downturn in the nation’s investment and credit markets has affected our endowment returns, access to capital, and loans to our students. While the University’s endowment portfolio has grown significantly over these last ten years and our investment strategies have protected us from the worst of the “down side,” risk abounds and Seton Hall will continue to experience a reduction in interest and investment income. The Chronicle of Higher Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities have recently issued reports on how this economic crisis is, and likely will be, impacting higher education across the board.
There is certainly some good news to report, as we entered this academic year with a set of notable accomplishments: completion of the new Science and Technology Center and a newly renovated Chapel, success of the $150 million Ever Forward campaign, implementation of campus-wide administrative and Web-based technology systems, implementation of our new Core Curriculum, initiatives that will increase our four-year graduation rate, and increasingly successful student recruitment and retention plans. We have lived within our means and, as a result, our rating agencies have recently confirmed our ability to meet these current economic challenges. (Indeed, Standard & Poor’s just raised our credit rating in September.) We will maintain this position through three key strategies: building upon our competitive strengths, reinforcing institutional accountability, and preparing for long-term economic recovery.
All of us are aware that a Seton Hall education is a choice that often involves sacrifice for students and their families—even in good financial times. I am, therefore, asking the University’s senior leadership to develop financial strategies appropriate to the present economic situation, planning both proactively and conservatively. Seton Hall has long been marked by a healthy level of fiscal flexibility and we will need to do all we can to minimize rising costs and increasing debt burdens. I want you to know that our Executive Cabinet and our Regents will be carefully monitoring all we do to ensure that Seton Hall weathers the current and future storms safely.
One of our chief priorities is to maintain Seton Hall’s competitive tuition. I can assure you that tuition rates and financial aid budgets will reflect our students’ increased need and that we will work closely with students who may have experienced sudden changes in their family’s financial circumstances. In addition, the University will seek to expand revenue sources and serve as wise stewards over current expenses.
I have also asked University administrators to outline a series of response initiatives that will utilize existing resources to assist the University community during these challenging times. These will include academic programming initiatives as well as responsive strategies in student support services, human resources, alumni networking, career services, financial aid, and campus ministry.
Seton Hall endeavors to foster a community where all can flourish—where opportunities abound and where goals and dreams can be realized. This will remain our goal even as we respond to our country’s difficult economic times. Wise choices, strong stewardship, the talent of our community, and focus on our Catholic mission will carry us through.
Our motto, “Hazard zet Forward,” will prove, as always, to be powerfully true: in spite of the difficulties, Seton Hall University will surely forge ahead, together.
Monsignor Robert Sheeran, 11 November 2008