New year brings good news

What better way to begin a new year than to share good news. And for those who love Davis & Elkins College, this is great news!

Many are aware that during President Buck Smith’s administration, D&E paid off all external debt.  This was a wonderful accomplishment in the ever-increasingly competitive world of private higher education.  However, the college had borrowed money from itself during difficult times. The technical term is that we borrowed from the college’s “quasi endowment”–basically our savings account. This is not unusual for a college, but it is still a sign of living beyond one’s means. And just like with our family budgets, it is not a practice that is sustainable for the long term.

So the good news I am pleased to share is that Davis & Elkins College is completely debt free, both from external and internal debt.  This is a statement that very few colleges or universities can make.  Thanks to generous donors, and one very generous donor in particular, the final repayment of debt was made in December, 2016.  As a new president, I cannot overstate my appreciation and admiration for the leadership of our Board of Trustees and President Buck Smith for restoring financial health and vitality to Davis & Elkins.  Bold and difficult decisions were made, but for the long-term health of the institution, these leaders made the proper decisions and the results are clear.

The landscape for higher education, particularly private higher education, is concerning as we move into the future.  Decreasing numbers of traditional-age college students, increased competition from online and for-profit higher education institutions, and the ever-increasing costs of a college education are a perfect storm for concern and angst.  D&E is strongly positioned to weather this storm because we are not devoting a significant portion of our budget to debt relief.  Rather, it is being directed toward students experiencing a transformative, life-changing educational experience.

Because we have made the commitment to live within our means, our budget is tight and we are forced to be ever-increasing good stewards of the dollars entrusted to us.  That is a challenge I gladly accept, for that is how it should be.  I do not hesitate to look a tuition-paying parent nor a donor in the eye, and say with all sincerity, D&E will be good stewards of that with which we are entrusted…whether that is your precious son or daughter, or your hard-earned and generously-given philanthropic donation.  For all who love this college, this is truly good news and provides to us all strong rationale to be optimistic about D&E’s future.

As we ring in 2017, I am looking forward to more good news to come for this college “on the hill.”  With 113 years of history at our backs, we move forward in our journey with confidence and optimism that our brightest days are ahead.

The journey continues. …

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Chris A. Wood is president at Davis & Elkins College.

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