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Finances a challenge, but college confidently advances

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At Antioch College a new class of 45 students has been accepted, three of the six initial faculty positions have been filled and work to renovate the campus continues. While optimism is high, finances are tight, and as the college moves closer to re-opening this fall, its reliance on donations will continue to grow.

“We are in the interesting position of not expecting significant revenue from students until 2013, so we are more dependent on philanthropy until then,” said President Mark Roosevelt in an interview last week, pointing out that the re-opened college will pay the full four-year tuition for the first class of students who enroll.

Currently, the college has just two months of operating cash on hand even while it counts as assets a $25-million endowment in addition to $5.5 million in outstanding pledges.

“I can’t deny that having two months of money in the bank is a challenge,” Roosevelt said. “But we will end this year with a surplus, because we will raise more than we spend.”

By the end of the college’s fiscal year in June, Roosevelt expects to raise additional money from this year’s outstanding pledges and alumni at this summer’s reunion, especially as the college takes major steps towards re-opening.

Antioch’s annual expenses of $6.5 million will increase to about $8 million in the fall to pay for faculty, staff and facilities. But some of the endowment’s restricted funds for scholarships will be available then, though the college is only allowed to use 5 percent of its endowment each year to operate.

To pay for expenses next fiscal year, Roosevelt estimates about $2 million will come from donors giving to Antioch’s annual fund, $1.4 million from the endowment and the remaining, about $4.6 million, from major gifts.

“There are some people of means deeply committed to seeing this enterprise succeed and many of these same people will have to fill the gap,” he said.“My job is to be able to create an institution that is attractive to other folks not in this core group and cultivate a large group of caring alums.”

Roosevelt said he hopes the alumni who have been “true believers,” supporting the college when it wasn’t clear if it would succeed, will pass the baton to those who have been hesitant to donate in an uncertain time or because of contentious issues such as the role of former faculty. Before then, more healing needs to take place in the Antioch community, Roosevelt said.

“Not that everyone is happy, but there is progress on reducing the loud tensions,” Roosevelt said, citing the hiring of former professor Hassan Rahmanian as dean of curriculum, assessment, planning and interdisciplinary learning, and continued conversations with former faculty to see how they might fit into the new college.

“[The tensions] need to be dealt with to create the atmosphere that giving will take place in,” he added. Roosevelt is also beginning to meet with large foundations to diversify the college’s donation sources.

“Technically we’re completely dependent upon alumni and other philanthropists right now,” echoed Antioch Pro Tempore Board Chair Lee Morgan. “But we have a relatively healthy balance sheet compared to many schools that have a lot of debt.”

The 45 admitted students and their families have been invited to campus on Sunday, April 17, for a campus tour and presentations by alumni. Alumnus Timothy Barrett, a MacArthur Genius Award winner, will speak, recent graduates will share their co-op experiences and prospective students will tour the Birch Residence Hall, where they will live and eat if they enroll.

By the end of April, the next three full-time faculty positions, in Spanish, literature and 3-D art, will be announced, Roosevelt said. And nearly $3 million has been spent on building renovations and maintenance since independence, which Roosevelt hopes to accelerate before the school year begins.

“Our goal is to be the greenest campus known to man,” Roosevelt said, citing his hope to raise money from large donors for energy-efficiency upgrades. In the meantime, conversations with local groups about partnering to renovate and operate a gym and performance space continue.

As the college moves closer to re-opening, Roosevelt said he believes the money will follow.

“They’ve raised $22 million in the last few years with no students, a campus and only a hope,” he said. “So there is urgency, there is need, but there are also resources and commitments.”

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