State of The College -
Address to Oberlin’s Alumni

Page 2

The late 1990s were great years for endowment performance. The market value of our endowment more than doubled from $280 million in June 1995 to $610 million by June 2000. Even by the standards of market performance in the late 1990s, Oberlin’s returns were unusually impressive among American colleges and universities, and we have taken advantage of this remarkable growth.

Our success has been equally dependent upon the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends. As you know, we are currently in a capital campaign. Our goal is to raise $165 million, which we must reach by June 2004. To date, we have raised $134 million for several major objectives, including scholarships, faculty support, and construction and endowment support for the new Science Center and two other critically important building projects: a new visual arts building and a student black box theater. We expect to meet and exceed our $165-million goal over the next two years.

Two factors, then—spectacular endowment growth and the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends—have made possible our recent achievements.

College admissions have turned around. Oberlin is once again a “hot” college. The College has experienced record-breaking numbers of applications for three years, and we have maintained our excellent admissions profile in the Conservatory.

This year, we almost reached our goal of 5,000 applications to the College; the final number was 4,926, the largest number of applicants ever. We are confident that next year we will easily exceed 5,000 applications.

Last year, we reached our goal of a 39 percent admit rate, and we achieved a 35 percent yield (two points better than our goal of 33 percent). This spring, we admitted just 35 percent of our College applicants to the Class of 2006—tying Oberlin’s admit rate in 1964 and 1965 and just two points higher than the 33 percent admit rate in 1972. Our yield this year is 36 percent.

Our Conservatory admissions continue to thrive. We have admitted just 29 percent of the 1,110 applicants to the Conservatory, and our yield was an impressive 46 percent. We are pleased, too, that our incoming class of gifted young musicians is especially well distributed among the major areas of study.

Double-degree applications are up. The class that just finished its freshman year includes a record 57 double-degree students. We have modestly exceeded our double-degree goal for our new class as well: 42 will join us this fall.

Our new students in both divisions will come to Oberlin from 44 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. They will arrive also from 22 nations around the world, including Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Panama, Romania, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

We have strengthened our scholarship program over the past seven years and have made it much more competitive. These efforts have contributed substantially to our success in admissions. Sixty-four percent of our new students will receive scholarship aid in the form of grants from Oberlin. In keeping with our mission, we have long aided and will continue to aid a significantly larger percentage of our students than do most of our peer colleges. Over the past seven years, Oberlin recommitted itself to meeting the total financial need of each student who qualifies for such assistance. (For a brief period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Oberlin practiced “gapping”—we agreed to meet 90 percent of demonstrated need, rather than 100 percent.)

The growth in our endowment and the wonderful generosity of our alumni and parents, who have already contributed nearly $36 million in campaign gifts and pledges to a new scholarship endowment, have been essential in allowing us to return to meeting students’ full need and helping us lower the loan and work-study portions of our aid packages. In 1995, loans and student jobs made up 30 percent of students’ aid packages; for last year’s entering class, they made up 18 percent.

Oberlin has always attracted exceptionally serious and talented students. This year is no exception. The academic qualifications of our students are excellent. The Class of 2006 will come to Oberlin with an average SAT score of 1353, up nine points from last year and up 32 points from two years ago. Sixty-four percent of our first-year students are in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

Our newest generation of students brings to Oberlin qualities that have been central to this College’s greatness as an institution of American higher education, qualities that are are more important than any scores or ranks: intellectual seriousness and curiosity, artistic excellence and vibrancy, and a passionate interest in and social engagement with the world at large.

Our College curriculum is being enriched by the addition of 10 new faculty positions, and we have created a new first-year seminar program. This coming year, every first-year student in the College will enroll in a seminar, and we are working toward the same goal for first-year Conservatory students the following year. Thanks to the rich and varied interests and specialties of our faculty, the topics of these seminars range widely. Here are a few of them: The First Amendment and the Internet, taught by Professor of Politics Ron Kahn; Medieval Iberia: Cultural Interactions from the Visigoths to 1492, taught by Assistant Professor of History Isaac Miller; Pedagogies of Empire, taught by Professor of English Anuradha Needham; Magical Realist Fiction, taught by English Professor David Young; Neurobiology of the Mind: The Brain Is Wider than the Sky, offered by Professor of Neuroscience Mark Braford; The Writing of Women in Japanese Culture, taught by Professor of Japanese Suzanne Gay; The Politics of Globalization, taught by Professor of Politics Steve Crowley; Seeing War and Peace through Religious Traditions, taught by Assistant Professor Joyce McClure, our ethicist in the Department of Religion; and North African Women and Islam, offered by Assistant Professor of French Ali Yedes.

Thanks to major grants from the Freeman and the Luce foundations and our ongoing cooperation with Oberlin Shansi, we will soon enrich a number of first-year seminars by combining them with winter-term experiences in Asia.

The addition of 10 new faculty members and some redefinition of several vacant faculty positions have also made possible several new degree programs in the College of Arts and Sciences. Just a few weeks ago, the faculty approved a new program in comparative American studies that will consider questions of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in American society and culture. With this program, we can dramatically enhance our curriculum in, among other areas, Asian American and Latino studies, thereby addressing a significant curricular need.

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