January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 38°F


College prepares to launch capital campaign

A proposed fundraising campaign by the Division of Institutional Advancement aims to raise $150–200 million by 2020 to go toward the priorities of Ithaca College’s strategic plan, IC 20/20.

Christopher Biehn, vice president of Institutional Advancement, said these priorities center around increasing the money available for student scholarships, the Office of Civic Engagement, the creation of endowed distinguished professorships and fellowships to promote a stronger academic campus, first-year housing and to build an Academic Center to boost cross-school collaboration. He said the Ithaca College Board of Trustees will vote on the exact financial goal and launch date of the campaign at its May 16 meeting.

Biehn said if the college reaches its goal, the money will allow for a $40 million increase in the funds available for endowed scholarships, resulting in the college having about $3.2 million to spend on endowed scholarships per year in 2020, about double the amount the college is currently handing out.

Marisa Kelly, provost and vice president for educational affairs, said this increase should help the college attract more students.

“What we want to do is to continue to ensure that students have access to Ithaca College,” she said. “That is, that we have enough financial aid available to support students being able to come here, and I think that will continue to help Ithaca College to be a strong place.”

Every year, the college decides on an operating budget, which is the total amount allotted to keeping the campus functioning. To pay for the college’s costs, Biehn said, the college has three main sources of revenue: the IC Annual Fund, the endowment, and funds from student tuition and room and board charges.

When alumni donate small sums to the college, they go into the college’s Annual Fund, which Biehn said the college then spends almost immediately to help cover the operating budget. Currently, the college raises about $1 million in the Annual Fund per year. Biehn said by the end of the campaign, the college hopes to be raising about $2.2 million per year in Annual Fund donations.

In contrast, Biehn said the endowment acts more like a savings account, and the college is only allowed to spend 4.2 percent of this at a time — a rate that was established by the board of trustees — in order to ensure that the college has a cushion of funds.

“We never invade the principle,” Biehn said. “We always just take the interest … So, for our $250 million endowment that we have right now … about $12.3 million comes in [to help pay for] the college’s operating budget.”

Another reason why the college needs to raise more funds, Biehn said, is for the future creation of an Academic Center, a space that will act as a hub for collaboration among students. Biehn said this will require the construction of a new building to house the center on campus.

Though Kelly said the board of trustees and the Campus Master Planning Committee, which is working to shape the “ideal” college campus by 2020, are still developing the conceptual idea of the building, it is supposed to tie in closely with the ideals of the IC 20/20 initiative.

“Think of that building as the physical embodiment of IC 20/20 and of the educational experience at Ithaca College,” Kelly said. “That’s really what will undergird the design for that space. It isn’t to say there won’t be offices and other things, but at its heart, it will be a place where students, faculty and staff come together to learn together, collaboratively, in really creative ways.”

Biehn said the campaign calls for increased engagement with alumni, parents of both alumni and current students and friends of the college to reach its dollar goal. This will include offering alumni opportunities to come back to the college to speak in classes, give lectures and work with the Office of Admission to help encourage prospective students to look at the college. Biehn said the campaign is also intended to increase the number of events hosted across the country to give alumni a chance to see developments happening at the college, without having to make the trip to the campus.

In addition, Biehn said, Students Today Alumni Tomorrow, the student alumni association on campus, is a way for current students can get involved by helping to garner campus awareness about connecting with alumni. Lynne Pierce, associate director of the Office of Alumni Relations and adviser to STAT, said the group’s main goal is to help students understand why alumni are an important asset to the college.

“One of the responsibilities for STAT is to help educate students about why philanthropy is important to them through Ithaca College,” Pierce said. “STAT is not the fundraising arm of this education piece. They want students to understand that, because of the alumni donations — their gifts to the Annual Fund — here are the things that we as students can now do.”

Biehn said the campaign is a way for the college to engage with its alumni while also creating new experiences for the students.

“Having great speakers in your classes … it’s another meaningful way to help the college,” he said. “Financial support is important. I’m not going to say that it’s not a key piece, but there are other meaningful things. It’s more than just financial.”

Staff Writer Eden Campbell contributed reporting to this article.