When every student makes a difference to Fort Lewis College’s sustainability, the Board of Trustees was happy to hear some good news on the application-and-acceptance-rate front at meetings Thursday and Friday.
“We’re quite ahead of last year at this time,” Admissions Director Andy Burns said. “We have 4,600 applications so far for fall 2016, versus about 1,400 applications at this time last year.”
President Dene Thomas had been concerned that more applications might not mean more enrollment, she said, because the college is incrementally increasing its admission standards each year to work up to the 2019 standards set by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
That does not seem to be the case, Burns said.
“Admissions are also up,” he said. “We’ve had 1,600 positive decisions so far, when we’ve had 500 to 600 in previous years at this time. The applications seem to be hitting the higher mark, and we’re already realizing more gain in quality of applicants.”
At their meeting Friday, the trustees approved the Investment Advisory Committee’s recommendation about how to allocate the $6 million of the $30 million in reserves the college is investing on its own behalf.
The committee recommended investing 40 percent in U.S. and international equity, or stocks, and 60 percent in fixed income, based on Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index.
“We’re awfully conservative here,” said Michele Peterson, associate vice president of finance and administration. “We feel much safer with a 60/40 split.”
Investing for return is one thing, but the college is also looking at creating a mission statement for environmental responsibility, social justice and ethical company governance as part of its investment strategy.
“A lot of other colleges and investors are having conversations around ‘How do we invest in a portfolio that aligns with what we think is right from a social standpoint?’” said Ellen Clark of Public Financial Management’s Asset Management Division, which will manage the college’s investments. “There’s no one right answer, no one clear path all the time. Say you don’t want to invest in any company that manufactures or sells weapons. Does that mean you won’t buy U.S. Treasury Bonds, because the U.S. government is one of the largest purchasers of weapons?”
It can become quagmire depending on how deeply people look at a company or an industry, she said.
“Say we look at solar panels,” Trustee John Wells said, emphasizing the point. “They’re good because they minimize carbon emissions, but the manufacturing of solar panels can be quite harmful to the environment, and where they’re made, there are labor-rights issues.”
The board plans to hold conversations with students, faculty and the community to determine its social-responsibility investing mission.
The trustees also held a preliminary conversation about what to do if higher education in Colorado sees a $20 million cut in the state’s budget as proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
FLC’s share would be about $557,000, said Steve Schwartz, vice president for finance and administration, and tuition increases could be as high as 10 to 13.6 percent if the cut takes place at that level.
“The board is committed to keeping tuition as low as possible,” Schwartz said. “It would probably be spread over residential and nonresidential tuition, but it’s very early in the process, and there will be lots of changes between now and when the budget is signed in May.”
The college has commissioned its first ever price-sensitivity market analysis, Peterson said. The results will help the school determine the point at which tuition prices start affecting enrollment. The results are due in January.