To the Prescott College Community,
It's hard to believe that it’s been seven years since I arrived in Prescott to become part of this community. The College was facing many challenges back then, but that was nothing new. The College faced challenges before and always prevailed. I was energized by the opportunity to lead this incredible institution, and optimistic about our future.
Looking back now, we have made great progress since 2014. It has been a team effort. None of what we achieved would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our excellent faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, and donors.
Many of us remember how our enrollment was decreasing and had shrunk to under 700 by 2016. Together, we reversed that decline, and we anticipate enrolling over 1,000 students this fall. We have not only been enrolling more students, but we also improved the persistence of students in all programs. The gains in retention of on-campus undergraduate students were particularly significant resulting in an increase in our six-year graduation rate from 31% to 49%. Our focus on diversity helped to make this growth possible. While many students are reluctant to self-identify in traditional racial categories, 66% of our students identify as white today compared to 74% in 2014.
We also made great progress in our academic offerings for our students. We first achieved one of the primary goals of our 2020 Strategic Plan by combining our online, on-campus, graduate, and undergraduate programs into “One College” instead of operating in separate siloes. We then expanded our academic offerings with new degree programs including MA Interdisciplinary Studies, MA Outdoor Education Leadership, BA/BS/MS Sustainable Food Systems, MS Resilient and Sustainable Community Development, MA Critical Psychology and Human Services, MFA Social and Environmental Arts Practice, and MBA Sustainability Leadership. Many of these new programs were made possible through our successful Preferred Teachout Agreement with Green Mountain College that brought so much new talent and opportunities to the College
In 2019, we submitted our extensive self-study to the Higher Learning Commission for our reaffirmation of accreditation. Unlike many small colleges that struggle with accreditation requirements and ongoing monitoring, Prescott College received a full ten-year reaffirmation with no ongoing monitoring as well as a change to our accreditation such that we can now offer new master’s degrees without HLC prior approval. In addition, the MS Counseling Program received a full eight-year CACREP accreditation last year. Enrollments surged as a result. MS Counseling is now our largest program.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we made extensive capital and programmatic investments at the Dopoi Center in Kenya and the Kino Bay Center in Mexico. The Tucson Center also expanded its presence in partnership with Changemaker High School, Arizona Serve, and a potential new partnership with Pima Community College.
Financially, we balanced our budget every year. We also achieved the bank ratio required for our bond financing and the CFI ratio required by our accrediting agencies every year. Our CFI had shrunk to 1.67 in 2014 but increased to 2.84 in 2020. Our revenue had shrunk to under $14 million by 2017, but we now project approximately $20 million in revenue this fiscal year. Our combined endowment, investment reserves, and cash increased from approximately $4.5 million in 2014 to approximately $5.5 million in 2021. At the same time, we reduced our debt liabilities from approximately $14 million to approximately $9 million.
Seven years ago, our employees were bearing the brunt of the College’s financial challenges with stagnant or decreasing compensation. Since then, we have increased employee compensation in all categories to levels competitive in the local market.
The College now has strong relationships with the City of Prescott and the local business community. We played a pivotal role in building a partnership with Arizona Public Service, the City of Prescott, and Whiting Brothers Company that revitalized the north side of Downtown Prescott. That partnership resulted in the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Hotel, the creation of the Sam Hill Warehouse Event Center, the revitalization of the Granite Creek Park, completion of a new electrical substation for the City, and creation of the College’s “East Campus” on the former APS property.
Our campus footprint has changed considerably since 2014. Many of our programs were previously located in leased properties with increasing annual rent and uncertain lease terms. The acquisition of the former APS property allowed us to relocate all of our programs out of leased properties onto the East Campus property that we now own. The College also received a generous donation of a stunning 65-acre Education and Research Site in the heart of the Granite Dells from the ECOSA Institute.
COVID-19 posed one of the gravest challenges of my tenure at the College. Fortunately, our entire community came together and rallied around the safety protocols developed by our dedicated Risk Management Team. Unlike many colleges, we re-opened our campus for residential in-person classes. We are now emerging from this pandemic without resorting to any layoffs, furloughs, or reductions in compensation for any employees. Most importantly, our students, staff, and faculty followed protocols and we kept our community safe.
All of this was a team effort. Each of you did your part. I am enormously grateful to our volunteer trustees who supported me during my time here, particularly the dedicated board chairs I served under including Dan Boyce, John Van Domelen, Jim Walsh, Katrina Rogers, and Lynne Nemeth. None of this would have been possible without the help and guidance of our talented Senior Leadership Team. In addition, more than anyone, Paul Burkhardt has been my mentor and partner in everything I did here. His understanding of all aspects of higher education, and his unflinching dedication to Prescott College, have been invaluable.
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your president. I am most grateful for this opportunity.