Vassar Today

Amid Progress, Campaign Focuses on Scholarships

By Lance Ringel

Although Vassar's Sesquicentennial is over, the Vassar 150: World Changing fundraising campaign continues, with very good reason to celebrate. The campaign has now crossed the $300 million threshold, and is therefore three-quarters of the way toward its $400 million target.

Campaign Chair Barbara Manfrey Vogelstein '76 and Board of Trustees Chair William A. Plapinger '74 shared the news in a letter to the broader Vassar community. They attributed the success of the campaign to "the steadfast support of Vassar alumnae/i, parents, and friends, giving at every level, who have made Vassar a priority." They see this progress as evidence that campaign priorities have resonated strongly with the "Vassar family." Those priorities include ongoing support for Vassar's Annual Fund to keep the college's economic foundation solid; construction of an Integrated Science Center to match the quality of its cutting-edge, multidisciplinary curriculum; and financial support to ensure that all talented students regardless of their means may have access to a Vassar education.

The Vassar 150: World Changing campaign began in 2006 with a "quiet phase" typical of such fundraising efforts, before going public last year. It is scheduled to conclude in 2013. "We are pleased with the results to date—and very, very grateful to Vassar's loyal donors at all levels," said Catherine Baer, vice president for Alumnae/i Affairs and Development. At the same time, she added, "We need support to remain just as strong for the campaign to hit or exceed its $400 million goal next year—funding that is vitally necessary for Vassar to realize its goals for the future."

As the campaign has progressed, the spotlight has turned to financial support for the college's students. Over the past decade, Vassar's scholarship grant budget has increased at a staggering rate—nearly threefold.

Equally significant, an increased dependence on general operating support for financial aid means the college has less money to spend on other areas supported by general funds.

This situation illustrates the pro-found effects of the recent economic downturn, which has increased the financial need not only of incoming first-year students, but also of students already enrolled at Vassar. It also reflects a changing college-age population whose fastest-growing segments are first-generation college students, young people from urban areas, and new waves of young immigrants. Administrators say there is an urgent need to increase funding for  endowed scholarships that do not draw on the college's general operating funds.

As President Catharine Hill has noted, "Scholarship support is making the Vassar experiences of so many of our students possible. Because of it, these promising young people can take advantage of the unique opportunities Vassar affords. Without it, their stories would be accounts of opportunities lost, dreams deferred, and access denied."