Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 2, 1974 · Page 63
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 63

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 2, 1974
Page 63
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Page 63 article text (OCR)

The small, private liberal arts college is in money trouble. Some have been forced to close their doors as costs skyrocket. Others survive -- perhaps without daily maid service now or fancy trips for the track team, Lawrence University is one of the survivors. Here i* its story of financial re- trenehnwnt. . . , . . . One Small University Survives Cash Crunch By Kay Harriett By Kay Bartlett APPLETON, Wis. UP) - Lawrence University, it is sometimes said, is one of the places you send a bright kid who couldn't quite make it into Harvard, Princeton or Yale. It's a good school, although many outside of academia have never heard of it. "Is that in Kansas?" they ask. Or, "Oh, you mean Sarah Lawrence?" No, they mean Lawrence University, a liberal arts college of 1,400 students whose president admits that "university" is a misnomer. LAWRENCE features open dorms, a beer hall on campus, the tell-tale smell of pot in the student union. But it's basically Midwestern, with one-third of the students from Wisconsin and another third from the neighboring states of Minnesota and Illinois. Nathan Pusey was president of Lawrence before he became president of Harvard. The 37-acre main campus, white with snow in the cold Wisconsin winter, is dominated by the neoclassic Main Hall, built in 1853. The eclectic architecture of the 30 or so structures reflects the growth of the school: from the old homes absorbed as Lawrence spread, now serving as office buildings and housing units, to the Georgian-style fraternity houses and most recently to Kohler Hall, a seven-story dormitory built in 1967. That was the year before Lawrence faced a financial crisis, eventually solved through retrenchment. Money troubles have plagued high education throughout the country, hitting hardest at small schools like Lawrence. An estimated 50 private colleges have closed their doors in recent years because of lack of funds. Others have declined in quality of education. THE MONEY problems have been caused in part by declining enrollments, a problem just beginning to^hit Lawrence. Applications and admissions in next fall's freshman class are down 16 per cent from last year. The National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges says enrollments across the country will be down 1 per cent next fall compared with 1973. Part of the enrollment drop was predictable -- the postwar baby boom youngsters have grown up. Another segment that disappeared from campuses were those studying only to escape the draft. A growing number of high school seniors now opt for vocational schools, educators say, and others no longer believe in the American ethic that college is a prerequisite for success. The declining enrollments, inflation and other problems have forced up tuition at many colleges, including Lawrence, where tuition was $1,100 in 1953-54 and it will be $4,100 next fall. But, says Marwin 0. Wrolstad, vice president of business affairs at Lawrence, tuition has remained the same over the years as the price of a new Chevrolet with power brakes and air conditioning. Some schools that folded were fly-by- night ventures, founded on a shoestring. But others, such as Parsons College in Iowa and Shymser, outside Chicago, had long histories. »· LAWRENCE, chartered in 1847 - before Wisconsin was a state -- was not a fly-by-night school. It has a large endowment for its size and a fine reputation. But STUDENT STYLE IS GENERALLY CASUAL Plenty of Beer, Smell of Pot in Union during the 1968-69 school year, Lawrence wound up with a $319,000 deficit. And it stayed in the red for two more years. When it moved back into the black, "financial retrenchment" was in everyone's vocabulary, six faculty members were gone, daily maid service was a thing of the past and the ever-flowing water fountains were cut off. One woman was so impressed by the water fountain cutback that she sent in a check for $25,000, with a note of applause for any school trying to save money. "Lawrence's problems were caused by over-optimistic planning and inflation," says Wrolstad. The Analytical Studies Committee was formed 1969 to figure out how Lawrence could get out of debt. Four or five faculty members, two administrators and two students met 40 hours a week for four weeks and came up with suggestions. Some worked, some didn't. The committee suggested cutting down heat in buildings. But that was far ahead of the energy crisis and the inherent patriotism of shivering. "The plan didn't fly," admits Wrolstad. The student union revised its hours and put in a "more sensitive pricing structure" -- i.e., hamburgers went up. Maid service was switched from daily to weekly and eventually to biweekly. Duplicate food service facilities were cut. Students who wanted a full breakfast and not a continental breakfast, for example, had to walk a little farther. More and more students handled such tasks as night switchboard coverage. The six faculty members who lost their jobs were mainly language teachers, and the decision was academic as well as financial, Wrolstad says. Lawrence, in following the national trend, had dropped its language requirements and the number of students taking languages dropped. Another casualty of the academic changes was the school's German Study Center at Eningen, Germany. "No one believes that was an academic decision and not a financial one." Wrolstad says. "But the sophomore requirements had been dropped, and the program had lost its purpose. It was floundering. Of course, there was an economic advantage too." At the same time, however, Lawrence added a sociology department. · LAWRENCE HAD a larger endowment than many liberal arts schools, and a good part of it came through a stroke of luck. Milwaukee-Downer, a prestigious women's liberal arts college, had run into serious enrollment problems, dropping from 600 studeftts to 200. It was chipping away at its endowment and could no longer survive financially. A terrible thing for Downer, a respected college with a nearly 100-year history, a godsend for Lawrence. It seems three or four Downer trustees were also Lawrence t r u s t e e s , and b e f o r e you could say "Milwaukee-Downer merged with Lawrence," it had. "We woke up one morning and our endowment was almost trebled," says Wrolstad. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee bought the Downer campus for $10 million. There was $2 million left in the Downer endowment. Lawrence went from an $8 million endowment to a $20 million endowment within a week. The merger, in 1964, was before its time. Today, some schools resort to mergers for financial reasons. For Lawrence, however, it was just a bit of luck. It also changed investment policies. With an $8 million endowment, the board of trustees made the decisions. "With $20 million, we decided we must have professional help," says Wrolstad. So they split the money -- $10 million to one investment firm. $10 million to another. "It wasn't meant to be a horse race, but frankly, it's worked out that way," Wrolstad adds. The firms chosen ran the money up to a high of $33 million. But as the Dow Jones drifted downward, so did the paper value of the endowment. It is now worth $26 million. Although 40 per cent of the student body receives some financial aid, Lawrence is a school with some very rich kids. One boasts that her roommate's mother writes two television soap operas; another tells that her roommate's father makes $150,000 a year. Yet it's the kind of school where it's chic to hide the fact that your old man has some scratch. Scholarships are given only for need. There are no merit scholarships at Lawrence. The basic package has been 70 per cent of needed money in a flat grant and the remaining 30 per cent from on-campus work and student loans. For next fall's freshmen, however, the flat grant has been dropped to 55 per cent, another tightening of fiscal policies. »· STUDENTS SAY little about Lawrence's general financial problems, but they gripe about the cuts that have hit home. Bob Thickens, a senior, was a member of the track team in other years. "We used to live better on the trips," he said. "Now they make you drive back that night and get in at four in the morning. We used to stay overnight in a hotel." The students are worried about the drop in applications. They fear the problem will be solved by relaxed admission policies. "If they start letting the dummies in, my Lawrence diploma won't be worth much," says Mike Howac, a junior and president of the Lawrence University Community Council. In addition to the 16 per cent drop in incoming freshmen, attrition in upper classes has risen. It had been running about 20 to 25 per cent after the junior year. Now it's up to 32 per cent. The university is trying to determine why. State's Schools In 'Good Shape' By George Steele Compared with other independent colleges of similar size across the nation, the seven independent four-year colleges in West Virginia are generally "in good shape," according to Art Dunlap, executive director of the West Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges. For example, the enrollment at Davis and Elkins College is up this year; Bethany had the largest freshman class in its history; and the number of applications for enrollment at West Virginia Wesleyan leads Dunlap to look "on the bright side."' · FURTHERMORE, Alderson-Broaddus is in "very sound condition" and Wheeling College has enjoyed a "turn-around," Dunlap said. "Things looked pretty dark for Wheeling a year ago," he added, "but now, f feel, they're moving in a positive direction." Salem College, Dunlap continued, "has gotten a big lift from the Benedum Foundation" and Morris Harvey College is in the unique situation of perhaps being converted to the campus of the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies or a state-supported liberal arts college. "I don't think anyone's kidding themselves into thinking that independent higher education doesn't need money." Dunlap went on. "We're going to continue to need the private gift dollar." "We've lost students in the past two or three years consistent with the national trend." Dunlap said. Director of Admissions Richard M. Canterbury says Lawrence's strong academic reputation will make it less susceptible to admitting inferior students than some institutions facing worse drop offs and in weaker financial positions. "A few more marginally qualified prospective students will probably be admitted as the price for obtaining classes of the size required to sustain the quality of the academic program," says Canterbury. · SOME FACULTY members maintain that Lawrence is already slipping academically. In 1969, 52 per cent of the students who entered were in the top 10 per cent of their high school classes. Now it's down to 40 per -cent. Chong-Do Hah, head of the government department, feels strongly that the quality of the Lawrence student is going down. "I have radically reduced my requirements because the university takes the position that the customer is always right," says Hah. There are not university requirements, he explains, just expectations from the students. Prof. Hah, a Korean, says his courses have filled up now that he has lessened some of his demands. That's important because whenever a department asks for money, the first question from the administration is: "WHAT'S THE ENROLLMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT?" ' "Why should I penalize my department?" Hah asks. One of the more outspoken faculty members, Hah also observes somewhat cynically that the fastest growing thing around campus is the adminis-. tration. One of the things that grew was the office for development and external affairs. Davol H. Meader, now vice president in charge of the office, is masterminding a $10 million "Lawrence Leadership Fund." He expanded the office from a one-man job to a six-man department. His predecessor was heard to crack: "Hell, I did it all myself." Meador says that was the problem. "I couldn't believe how little was done in fund-raising when I came here," he said. So far, $6.3 million has been raised toward a new library, expansion of the art center, an addition to the science hall and renovation of the venerable Main Hall. Lawrence President Thomas Smith, looking like central casting's version of a college president, approaches big contributors. President Smith says Lawrence will not resort to gimmicks to stay financially healthy. "Lawrence should stick to the liberal arts and do that well," said Smith. He Sunday ( » u / r l l r - M a i l f urrerit A f fairs C.harlt'sion, tt r.s/ Viryinln IE --June 2. 1974 adds that there has been pressure in the past to add a law school and an engineering school and to establish a master's degree in music education. r- LAWRENCE IS the kind of place where students can talk to the faculty with relative ease. Classes are usually small, with an 11-1 ratio between students and faculty. Over 400 courses are offered, and 70 per cent of the faculty either hold or are working on their doctorates. The ease of the relationship is demonstrated by the fact that Francis "Rusty" Campos, a 27-year-old psychology teacher, dates students and that Smith, who lives in a giant three-story campus home, has students living in his residence. A young man came to Smith's office one day and told him his living conditions were deplorable and therefore he wasn't getting the education he came here to get. "I understand you have a big house and that the third floor is not used. Why don't you think about having me live at your home, the young man asked the president. So Smith took him in. "That first one had a lot of charm and courage," Smith recalls. The Lawrence campus is just off the shopping section of Appleton, a city of 57,000 famous as the home of Joe McCarthy and the Great Houdini. Houdini, the students report, said his greatest escape was in getting out of Appleton. Lawrence is a school you don't bump into on the way to somewhere else. It's generally reachable by Air Wisconsin and the Greyhound bus. Or, as one sage observed: "Lawrence, why that's two days dog sled north of Chicago." L.T. ANDERSON Snubbed by Scouts, Klan A few weeks ago the State Magazine Section published two pictures showing Ku Klux Klans men in 1924 in Oak Hill and Hinton. The Hinton picture was taken from a high school yearbook. Accompanying text explained that the Hinton Klavern was the 1924 senior class sponsor. I assumed designation as senior class sponsor was more or less honorary, but a member of the 1924 class wrote me and said the Klan took its duties seriously. It underwrote several good parties and hayr- ides, he said. It was I who provided the picture to the magazine section. I have one of the 1924 yearbooks. Some of the seniors of that year were Catholics, and I hope my correspondent in Hinton will let me know if these students attended the Klan-sponsored parties. »· VERY PROBABLY they did, and enjoyed them too. As far as I know, the Hinton Klansmen never bothered anybody. ·I Much of the tom.was Catholic. It is conceivable that thetrains couldn't have been kept running without the Irish railroaders. I doubt that anybody in town had ever seen a Jew. Negroes kept in "their place," as the saying went, and were effectively barred by the railroad unions from getting the better jobs. I watched several Klan parades in the company of a black boy who lived nearby. I never gave a thought to the fact that when the school term began, he disappeared. The parades we witnessed took place in the early 1930s when we joined others at curbside to guess at the identity of the hooded marchers. The trick was to look at the shoes and the gait. In a town where almost everybody walked between home and CO roundhouse, individual strides became familiar. One Klansman who was notably short of stature was always greeted with loud cries of recognition, which might have caused embarrassment to show on his face if it hadn't been concealed. As I told Yankee Peeks the other day; black people have a great advantage in $t being able to blush. I should note for thfjrecord, I suppose that the short klans- alw hplnnperl to a lodee whose mem- bers sometimes carried swords. When he and his fraternal brothers attended church "in a body," he held his sword up to keep it from dragging on the floor. *· MY HINTON correspondent told me that the Klavern membership included a lot of prominent citizens. I told him that some members of my family yearned to be members but were never asked to join because of their low social position. It is this sort of thing that shapes prejudices for years to come. Nobody in my part of town was invited to join the Boy Scouts, for example, and honor required that we ambush those who passed through our blocks on Saturday mornings en route to outings in the mountains. My friends and f knew the woods far better than the Boy Scouts and would take short cuts to reach a strategic height from which we would pelt them with rocks. To this day I have reservations about contributing money to a dues-paying organization. My entire outlook upon life might be different, if my Jamily had got into the Scouts or the Klan, jftr something. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT TALKS WITH STUDENTS Thomas S. Smith (center) Credited With Pulling School Through

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