Westmont Magazine Building for the Future
Westmont is coming of age as an academic institution. In a relatively short time, it has built a national reputation as one of the premiere Christian liberal arts colleges in the country. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching lists it among the top 162 liberal arts colleges in the nation, a category U.S. News and World Report refers to as “national liberal arts colleges.” Westmont continues to attract attention for the quality of its programs and professors.
The Templeton Foundation recently honored both President David Winter and Westmont for outstanding leadership in student character development. Winter is one of 50 presidents and Westmont among 100 institutions named in “The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Develop-ment,” a guidebook released nationwide in October. Only 20 schools received recognition in both categories.
A celebration on campus in October highlighted the excellence of Westmont’s faculty. Establishing the Robert H. Gundry Chair in Biblical Studies and installing Tremper Longman III as the first incumbent honored two distinguished and internationally known professors (see related story on page 3).
Success is apparent even around campus in renovated facilities and efforts to preserve the grounds. Westmont has never looked better or appeared more prosperous.
Because tuition is high and giving is increasing, Westmont’s financial situation may seem assured. But the college’s young age, incomplete campus, and small endowment create economic constraints. Despite all its awards and achievements, Westmont faces significant financial challenges in the coming decades. Without new facilities, a larger endowment, and increased annual giving, it can’t reach the next level of excellence.
Who Pays the Bills?
Financing higher education is complex, and it’s easy to confuse the price with the cost. Generally, the price we pay for goods and services exceeds what it costs to produce or provide them. But at most colleges and universities, the price of tuition is actually less than the cost of the educational program. Students are getting more than they pay for.
Even the highest tuition doesn’t pay all the bills. Supplementing student payments takes a variety of forms. Alumni, parents, and friends make gifts, and schools undertake ambitious capital campaigns. Professors and administrators apply for grants from governmental and non-profit agencies. College stores and other enterprises bring in revenue. And most institutions receive a return on their endowments, permanent funds that yield interest income annually.
Last year, Westmont spent $2,491 more per student than it received in tuition and fees. Historically, this gap has equalled more than $2,000 annually.
How does Westmont raise this additional revenue? Much of it comes from gifts (see page 22), some from auxiliary enterprises, and only a little from interest income.
In higher education today, the amount of non-tuition revenue largely determines the quality and breadth of an institution’s program. Tuition gaps at the best schools are much wider than Westmont’s because they have larger endowments and more money to spend per student. Institutions with small endowments and modest giving rely mostly on tuition for income and are more limited in what they can offer.
In ranking colleges and universities, U.S. News & World Report evaluates expenditures. They reason, “Generous per-student spending indicates that a college is able to offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures the average spending per student on instruction, research, and education-related services.”
So Westmont faces the challenge of increasing spending per student without raising tuition significantly. A larger endowment and increased annual giving will help.
But a second major challenge complicates this picture. Westmont needs a number of new buildings to provide adequate facilities for its existing students. The lack of classroom and laboratory space seriously hampers several departments, and too many students live in crowded triple rooms.
While seeking gifts to supplement tuition, Westmont must also raise money for new facilities. In fact, capital gifts are essential in recruiting and retaining faculty and students.
A Major without a Home
Tom Fikes is the kind of professor Westmont wants. A deeply committed Christian, he earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a prestigious Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation. After doing post-doctoral research at Indiana University, he taught at the University of Puget Sound in Washington for four years.
He has thought deeply about the ways in which his faith and his scholarly work relate, and he taught a mini-class at Homecoming entitled “Body, Mind, and Soul: Christianity and the Cognitive Neurosciences.”
But when Westmont offered him a position in the psychology department, he hesitated before accepting. Although the college planned to add a neuroscience major, his major area of expertise, there was absolutely no laboratory space for neuroscience classes or his research. In fact, the psychology department lacks sufficient space for the labs it currently offers.
The Santa Barbara housing market made Westmont’s offer seem even less appealing. Even though he owned a home in Tacoma, Tom could not afford to buy in Santa Barbara.
But two factors persuaded him to come despite these difficulties: the availability of reasonably priced faculty homes in Las Barrancas, and college plans to build a new building for the sciences well equipped for classes and research in psychology and neuroscience. Capital gifts are funding both.
Meanwhile, Tom will teach and do research in a modular classroom and laboratory in Clark parking lot. Although temporary, this facility marks a major increase in space and includes computers donated by the James L. Stamps Foundation.
The physics and mathematics departments will also benefit from the new building for the sciences. A new art center will provide four times as much gallery and studio space for the burgeoning art department.
Enhancing Everyday Education
Meanwhile, annual giving continues to provide invaluable support for the academic program.
Lisa DeBoer is another new professor who came to Westmont despite limited facilities. The first full-time art historian to teach at the college, she is working hard to accumulate the staples of any art history program: art books and slides. Both are expensive.
Rather than buying slides in costly packages and getting more than she really wants or needs at $3 to $5 a slide, Lisa is making her own using art books, a new copy stand and a high-quality camera. Her cost is about 60 cents per slide. She is labeling and cataloguing the photos to create an easy-to-use database for all the art professors. As her collection grows, she will need to find storage cabinets to house the slides.
Over time, Lisa will develop eight new art history classes, which will strain the resources available for purchasing new library books. “I have quite a long wish-list for art books!” she explains. “Although art books are expensive, they get double use as a source of slides and as a research resource for the students.”
The Westmont Fund and gifts from the Art Center steering committee are helping Lisa establish her program.
“I’m very glad the new facility is in the works,” Lisa adds. “We’re pretty cozy in the Art Center, and the slides are rapidly pushing me out of my office! The new building will have a large classroom set up for art history, rather than the improvised space we now use, and will also have a space for me to make and store slides.”
As vice provost for curriculum and faculty development, history Professor Shirley Mullen is taking a systematic approach in facilitating faculty growth. “The more we expect of our faculty, the more intentional we have to be about training them,” she notes.
She plans to schedule special speakers and workshops that focus on teaching techniques and integrating faith and learning.
Last summer she organized a weeklong seminar that explored what it means to be a Christian teacher-scholar at a liberal arts college. A group of 35 professors listened to talks by Yale Professor Nicholas Wolterstorff and met in small groups for discussions. They considered how to talk about faith in the classroom, how to apply Christian convictions to contemporary issues, and how to become the kind of person whose faith and learning inform each other.
Lecture series and focused programming benefit students as well as faculty. The Erasmus Society brings prominent scholars to campus to speak on interdisciplinary themes, and The Pascal Society features presentations in the natural sciences. These series help create a learning community on campus.
One of the strengths of a small, liberal arts college is the ability to hold campus-wide discussions on important topics such as diversity and human sexuality. “These programs examine issues from a biblical standpoint and help prepare students to live in the world,” Shirley explains.
Assessing the efficacy of Westmont’s program is also valuable. A three-year grant from the Irvine Foundation is funding self-studies in each faculty and student life department. Questions include: Are we accomplishing what we claim to accomplish? Do all our classes and programs support our mission as a Christian liberal arts college?
Faculty development, lecture series, focused programming, and assessment projects are all funded primarily through gifts and grants.
The Importance of Endowment
Endowed funds of all kinds are becoming increasingly important in financing higher education. The annual income they provide supplements tuition and strengthens the academic program.
Westmont’s endowment has doubled in four years, from $6.7 million in 1995 to $13.7 in 1999, and it continues to increase. The college is raising funds for endowed faculty chairs, including the Robert Gundry Chair in Biblical Studies (see related story on page 3).
Recruiting and retaining the best faculty continues to be an important goal in accomplishing our mission. Faculty chairs provide resources for a professor’s salary and research and add to the prestige of a school and a department. They often help recruit top-notch scholars. One of the reasons Tremper Longman III decided to come to Westmont was the opportunity to hold an endowed chair. A well-established and prolific Old Testament scholar, he previously taught at Westminster Seminary.
The list of endowed scholarships at Westmont is also growing. These funds help qualified students with financial need or special talents afford the cost of tuition at Westmont. Currently, more than 150 students receive assistance from endowed scholarships.
Despite this exciting growth, Westmont’s endowment is small compared to other top liberal arts colleges. All the corresponding schools in California have more endowment per student, as do the three Christian colleges in the national grouping (see the chart on page 25). The size of Westmont’s endowment is not commensurate with the quality of its faculty, students, and program.
Endowment is often a legacy of past gifts, most of which come through bequests in wills and estates. For example, Westmont created its first faculty chair, the Kathleen Smith Chair in Religious Studies, through a provision in the late Mrs. Smith’s will.
Westmont has not received a significant number of planned gifts because most of its alumni are still quite young. It will be many years before they make gifts through their estates.
The Wallace Emerson Society honors people who have included Westmont in their will or estate plan. Each year membership grows as alumni, parents, and friends understand the importance of leaving a legacy to the college. In some cases, a gift to Westmont may actually help donors leave more to their family members.
To date, Wallace Emerson Society members have reported $39 million in future bequests. This total may represent only a small fraction of actual planned gifts to the college and will help boost Westmont’s endowment considerably.
Meanwhile, Westmont will take steps necessary to fulfill its life-changing mission and solidify its financial base. Obtaining capital gifts for new facilities, raising ongoing contributions for essential programs, and seeking donations for endowment are all priorities.
—Nancy Favor Phinney ’74