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The Planning Environment

In his Jan. 2009 note to the community regarding Elmhurst College’s response to the international economic situation, President S. Alan Ray commented that “over the years we have endured and thrived by adhering to our core values of academic excellence, strong bonds of community, and careful stewardship of financial resources.”

Indeed, this strategic plan looks to build upon many fundamental strengths of the College, including a skilled and dedicated faculty and staff, a full-time student core that has grown in size and ability, academic and co-curricular programs that intentionally link liberal learning with professional preparation, a robust and well-maintained campus infrastructure, a long history of prudent resource management, a wide and growing array of mutually beneficial relationships with individuals and organizations, and higher levels of recognition and respect than at any time in recent history.

In his January letter, President Ray identifies several critical challenges now facing the College that stem from current economic circumstances, including our high level of tuition dependency at a time when student and family resources are stressed, our need for robust philanthropic support at a time when donors face difficult decisions regarding their giving priorities, and our reliance upon endowment support for scholarships and other facets of our work at a time when endowment market values are declining. These challenges are joined by others, some with an internal flavor such as various facility needs, time and resource pressures felt by faculty and staff, and questions of next steps for several of the College’s programs as well as some arising from a more external perspective such as changes in demographics and technology capabilities, competition from other educational providers, and growing calls for accountability from all quarters. In the words of President Ray, “we must not sacrifice the ambitions expressed by the College community through the strategic planning process that we began last July. Rather we must integrate our planning into our current and foreseeable financial realities. We must prioritize and implement our initiatives carefully, and move forward with the most pressing initiatives in a financially prudent manner.”

In this environment, we stand ready to build upon our strengths, address our challenges, and take advantage of the many opportunities open to us, including all that our proximity to Chicago offers with its rich array of potential learning experiences, growing engagement by our alumni, and increasing willingness on the part of many community members to serve as mentors, sources of internships and jobs for students and graduates, volunteers, and donors. In the words of President Ray, “if we employ creativity and conviction to merge our aspirations and reality, we can be sure that our best years as a College lie before us.”

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