To the Trinity Community:
In 1869, the founding vision of Trinity University was "to establish a University of the highest order." Decades of commitment and investment from alumni and friends have helped us realize this aspiration. Key to achieving this goal is the margin of excellence provided by Trinity's endowment, which the University prudently nurtures and stewards for the benefit of current students and future generations of Trinitonians. I write to share the powerful story of Trinity's stewardship, our recent response to a Congressional inquiry, and our commitment to future generations.
From its origins, Trinity has sought to make a quality education accessible to students at an affordable price, and it manages its resources with this essential goal in mind. In fiscal year 2014-15, endowment distributions to the operating budget totaled more than $45 million. In that same year Trinity awarded nearly $48 million in scholarships and grant aid.
The University is committed to maintaining access to bright, highly motivated, talented students regardless of their ability to pay. This commitment is reflected by the fact that more than 93 percent of our students receive some form of merit- or need-based financial aid. In fact, the number of students with the greatest need, those eligible for Pell Grants from the federal government, has grown significantly over the past decade, further illustrating our ongoing commitment to providing access to a broad spectrum of students.
Congressional Letter on Endowments
On March 2, 2016, the U.S. Congress instructed Trinity and 56 other private colleges and universities to respond to 13 questions about their endowments. The Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means sought detailed information on how the University manages and uses its endowment to deliver on its educational mission. In my letter and detailed responses to the committees' questions, I describe "the critical importance Trinity's endowment makes in the University's historic quest to provide a high quality education to generations of students at an affordable price."
Students Key Beneficiaries of Trinity Endowment
Trinity's endowment valued at $1.14 billion as of May 31, 2015, supports student financial aid, student and faculty scholarship, and other operational costs, and it ensures Trinity's margin of excellence. The endowment has allowed the University to develop quality programs, recruit eminent faculty, maintain the best facilities, and deliver greater value to students than would be possible with tuition dollars alone. In fiscal year 2014-15, endowment revenue contributed 35 percent of the University's operating budget, essentially subsidizing every student's Trinity experience – even students who pay full tuition.
Beyond the numbers or statistical points of comparison, the endowment is an investment in students and faculty. For example, during the recent "Great Trinity Experiment," alumna Sofia Bahena '07 returned to campus to give back by teaching a class. She also shared the story of how a Trinity education would not have been possible without the generous scholarship support that transformed her life and put her on the path to completing a doctorate in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In her role as an education associate with the Intercultural Development Research Association, she gives back to our society by promoting equity and excellence in U.S. public schools.
The endowment is also an investment in faculty who mentor our students. The 2014 Gallup-Purdue index "Great Jobs, Great Lives" notes that students who have a meaningful relationship with a professor who cares about them, makes them excited about learning, and encourages their dreams will double their odds of thriving with a life of engagement and well-being. In Sofía's case it was Arturo Madrid, the Norene R. and T. Frank Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities. At his recent retirement reception, she spoke eloquently about how his personal guidance, encouragement, and investment in her helped her see a future she had not imagined and to have confidence in a personal ability she had not recognized in herself. Madrid holds one of the 27 named professorships at Trinity that are supported by our endowment. Madrid's professorship also allows him to play an active role in the San Antonio community. He is a visible liaison as Trinity seeks to give back to our society. This semester we celebrate Madrid's retirement after a 50-year career in higher education that has enriched the lives of thousands of students and brought attention to his Hispanic scholarship and national honors. Student/mentor relationships like that of Sofía Bahena and Arturo Madrid are just one example of the impact of Trinity's endowment and how it enables the University to hire dedicated faculty, recruit talented students, and deliver an educational experience that transforms lives.
Ensuring the future of Trinity's transformative experience
In order to ensure this opportunity for all students and for future generations, Trinity is a careful steward of philanthropy. We maximize the impact of every dollar provided by donors. One of the primary responsibilities of Trinity's Board of Trustees and my executive leaders is to provide for the next generation of students, and the generation after that, the same opportunity enjoyed by the current generation of students. We balance the responsibility of intergenerational equity – meeting the needs of the present generation and future generations – by applying a conservative investment strategy and a prudent spending policy.
As president, one of my key responsibilities is to plan for the future of Trinity University. While our endowment has allowed us to achieve much, it will not be sufficient to ensure our margin of excellence unless we continue to be successful stewards and make additional investments. The Center for the Sciences and Innovation is a remarkable addition to our campus, we must also invest in other parts of our infrastructure, such as the Chapman Center and Halsell Center, so that all fields and disciplines, including humanities, economics, business, and healthcare administration can thrive. In addition, we must strengthen our current named professorships and add new ones if we are to compete for the best faculty and staff who will join us in providing a transformative residential experience at Trinity University. As we provide students with the experiential opportunities to put their classroom learning to practice in the laboratory, on stage, or out in the community, we also must secure funds to ensure the supervision and quality of these opportunities to genuinely enhance the Trinity experience.
Together we must be more than stewards protecting and wisely using the current distributions from the Trinity endowment. We must invest in the vision of keeping Trinity at the forefront as we redefine liberal arts education for the 21st century and strengthen the integration of liberal arts and professional fields – the hallmark of Trinity University for decades.
Our endowment is essential to Trinity's margin of excellence and students are its key beneficiaries. We are proud to share with Congress the story of our investment in students through the Trinity experience. And we actively seek the support of the Trinity community to ensure that this tradition of impact and excellence will be available for future generations.