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Campaign Updates

Financing the Future: A Conversation with President Oden

April 23, 2008

In a recent interview, President Rob Oden shared his thoughts on the Carleton endowment, financial aid, and why both need to grow.

There’s been a lot of media buzz about wealthy institutions with huge endowments replacing student loans with grants. Some of these schools are our direct competitors. How does Carleton measure up?

Carleton is all about offering the best education it can for its students. What we concentrate on is that. But it is worth looking at the colleges with whom we compete most for students and faculty—and staff, too. The fact is, their average endowment per student is roughly two to three times ours. Williams’ endowment is now $1.9 billion. Amherst, Swarthmore, and Pomona are all over a billion, compared to Carleton’s $664 million.

We aren’t overly concerned with our competition, but we have to acknowledge that students and faculty are looking at the resources of an institution. It’s not all about money, but supporting students and faculty does require money.

An endowment is there to make sure that your educational goals are not in danger. We need to greatly increase our endowment so that we know that financial aid, that professors in all areas, that the whole academic program is something that can continue.

The College recently announced the new Carleton Access Scholarship program, which will increase financial aid to our neediest students by an additional million dollars over the next four years. How does the Campaign complement this effort?

A big part of the campaign is to increase our endowed financial aid. Right now Carleton spends $25 million a year on financial aid, but only about a quarter of that aid is endowed for the future; the other three quarters isn’t.

If we succeed in reaching our goal of $90 million for financial aid, that will mean that close to half of our aid is fully endowed and hence secure for the future. We'll still have work to be done, but meeting this endowment goal will move us significantly closer to where we need to be.

What are your hopes for the Campaign and beyond?

The real importance of endowment is that it allows you to say that something is not ephemeral—something is not vulnerable.

My biggest goals are ensuring the future of the programs that matter most and making sure the endowment continues to grow so that we can offer the kind of education that is second to none.

If I’ve got one ambition above all at Carleton, it’s to stand on the steps of Laird Hall and shout out over the Bald Spot to everybody who will hear: “Do you know what, folks? The current level of need-based financial aid at Carleton is now endowed! And do you know what that means? That this noble, wonderful Carleton tradition—as old as the college, a college that has not fallen for the allure of merit-based aid—can now guarantee it! It’s going to continue!”