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Putting It in Perspective

Throughout its history, the College has relied upon the help of friends.

What began as the brainchild of a homesick violinist is now one of the leading undergraduate and master’s degree–granting institutions in the Northeast. William Grant Egbert, an Ithaca native, was studying in Germany in the late 1800s, longing for home. He thought he might make a living in Ithaca if only he had enough music students. He wrote a friend, asking him to sell shares in a new conservatory (at $50 apiece!). In 1892 the Ithaca Conservatory of Music, which would eventually become Ithaca College, debuted in four rented rooms on East Seneca Street.

Such is the power of a dream.

Over the next decades Egbert and his successors worked to mold Ithaca College closer to its current incarnation, but the Depression brought mounting bills that almost forced the College to close. In 1937 President Leonard Job was forced to ask local creditors who held outstanding bills for mortgages, coal, groceries, laundry, and plumbing services to forgive the College’s debts.

Their help made a world of difference, and Ithaca College survived.

In 1958, trustee Roland “Red” Fowler headed a local committee of Collegefriends who would contribute toward the expansion from downtown to South Hill. The $100 annual pledge from those friends enabled the College to make the move.

In the 1960s Ithaca had erected a student union and a few dormitories on South Hill, but had yet to construct a classroom facility. The government decided to stop funding, reasoning that if there were no classrooms, it couldn’t be considered a college. Once again, a group of friends came to the rescue, raising $250,000 for the first classroom building — Friends Hall — on South Hill.

Through the years, Ithaca College has experienced numerous threats to its survival. And each time a lot of hard work and a little help from friends helped it expand and strengthen.

Today, a college education is growing ever more expensive to provide. With each rise in the cost of construction, building maintenance, phone service, utilities, technology upgrades and replacements, salaries, employee benefits, dining services, and gas for campus vehicles, colleges feel the pinch.

Traditionally, colleges have three main sources of funds for the above items: the tuition, room and board, and fees paid by students and their families; the endowment (an invested fund whose interest provides annual income); and gifts and grants from external donors.

The optimal source of funds is interest earned from the endowment. Unfortunately, although Ithaca ranks high academically and in many other ways, its endowment is unusually small compared with similar colleges. The target for a healthy endowment is 2.5 times the size of the operating budget, but at Ithaca that number is 1.3. In fact, Ithaca ranks 9th among 12 institutions with which it is often compared.

With a larger endowment, increased scholarship aid, new facilities, and a healthy annual operating budget, the College can lessen its dependence on tuition dollars and invest its resources fully in the future of IC students.

But there are challenges. Most of the College’s facilities are now more than 40 years old and need or will soon need upgrading or replacement. Further shrinking in state and federal student aid may force families to rely even more heavily on College-funded scholarships. And if the cost of educating students continues to rise, the College will face an even greater struggle to provide a high-quality education at an affordable price.

At the same time, a demographic shift is looming. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education study, the number of high school students in the Northeast (where most IC students hail from) will peak by 2011 and decrease steadily through 2017. The competition among colleges will grow more fierce, and there will be even more pressure on institutions to provide the most attractive programs, facilities, technology, resources, and residences.

These are challenges, surely, but Ithaca College has strong leadership andvision. As the College’s reputation has grown, it has attracted ever higher-caliber students — those who will use their IC education to make a difference in their professions, their families, their communities, and our world. With your help, the Ithaca College star will continue to rise.

The South Hill campus began with five dormitories and Egbert Hall , erected in 1961; today’s campus is still evolving, as a new School of Business building, an athletics and events center, and a gateway building will soon be added.

William Grant Egbert couldn’t possibly have known where his dream would eventually lead, but he would almost certainly be pleased to see what has become of his beloved institution, now high above Cayuga’s waters. The pledge of the College today is to always stay true to its mission, vision, and core values, providing the best and broadest education to prepare students for lives as productive, responsible, ethical, critical thinkers with a yen to continue learning.

And, as in the past, the College will rely on the help of friends to make a world of difference in their lives.

—Kate Larrabee and Maura Stephens

Please join the Campaign for Ithaca College: Making a World of Difference by making your gift today. Log onto www.ithaca.edu/campaigngiving, call 1-607-274-1391, or e-mail makeadifference@ithaca.edu.

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