Today I was honored to join two other women in the Humanities Scholars Program of Carnegie Mellon University to thank the Pittsburgh City Council for passing a proclamation honoring Bill Dietrich, whose $265 million donation to Carnegie Mellon could profoundly change the future of the university. CMU has grown so much in the past 30 years–from the regional school my grandfather attended to a university which is starting to makes its impact felt globally.
Our endowment hasn’t kept up: we regularly compete with universities with 16 and 17 times our endowment. An endowment is the difference between tuition raises of 20% a year for the last 5 years and having a buffer to protect students and families during a recession. An endowment is the difference between students getting funding for the non-profit experience we need to work for the social good, or only taking internships which pay. An endowment is the difference between having all of our Arabic classes taught by University of Pittsburgh graduate students (and one Pitt professor) and having a dedicated program with a dedicated advisor and a dedicated office on campus for the dozens of Arabic students and heritage speakers on campus.
Here we are–Sara Faradji, Nancy Brown, and I–in the parking-lot before we went before City Council:
Here’s the lovely council-room:
And the proclamation:
Why is having a healthy endowment so important to Carnegie Mellon?
Carnegie Mellon remains very dependent on tuition dollars, more so than many other national research institutions. However, our ability to continue raising tuition is limited. The ability of parents to fund education has been growing at a slower rate than the growth rate of tuition and tuition has been growing at a faster rate than inflation. Endowment resources help relieve the university’s dependence on these diminishing tuition revenues.
In addition, a strong endowment enables the university to offer more scholarships and university-based financial aid, which in turn helps in the recruitment and retention of the most qualified students. A healthy endowment eases pressure on the university’s operating budget and means that Carnegie Mellon’s values and priorities, rather than external forces, influence university decisions to a greater degree.