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Antioch College ‘needs more’

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In his self-described “transparent” way at the state of the college address last week, Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt summarized the significant challenges involved in remaking the college, now at the start of its fourth year of operation: “You can see it from here, but it’s still just slightly out of reach.”

That’s what he told the tent full of 150 alumni and community members who came to campus Friday to welcome the newest class of 71 students and hear a campus update.

The main issue remains accreditation, for which the college is currently a candidate. The final site visit is scheduled for the first week of November 2015. At that point, Roosevelt said, the school “needs to be 100 percent accreditable.”

“The pressure on us is larger than ever”  to get the college’s finances in order and build both capacity and long-term stability. And currently, he said, the group of people with the power to make that happen “is still too small.” The college “needs to do more”; it needs to “chart new ground.”

Even with rigorous academics, an established co-op program, and one of the most energy efficient campuses in the country, Roosevelt told the crowd, the college still needs to be able to stand apart from the rest by being true to its roots as a champion of social justice. The college needs to find ways to engage first-generation college students and those from outside the privileged class. He cited the statistic that 12 years ago 10 percent of U.S. college students came from the bottom 50 percent of the economic strata, and now that number is only 11 percent. The doubling and tripling of scholarship aid over the past decade has not changed the figure. In addition, the college’s academic program needs to help students once they arrive to navigate programs of study that give them the tools to address the problems of inequality and other social and scientific issues the world is facing.

To that end, according to a story in the Antioch Alumni Magazine published this week, the college has a fundraising goal of $19 million this academic year to balance its budget. Of that total, $6 million is already pledged for continued capital improvements for the Art and Science building and part of a third residence hall to open in 2017. But a remaining $13 million needs to be raised for operations and to support the 98 staff and 34 faculty currently working full time on campus, including 10 faculty and 21 staff members hired since July (12 of whom are replacements of employees who have left).

In addition still this year, according to Tom Brookey, the college’s director of human relations, the college plans to hire an assistant director of alumni relations, a new advancement vice-president, associate dean for community life, a nurse, a theater tech director and a Web and graphic designer.

Creating a campus with the physical capacity to house its programs is an ongoing challenge. The total cost estimate to renovate the campus facilities went from $30 million four years ago to a current $120 million. According to the Alumni Magazine, so far the college has raised $35 million through both donor contributions and investment gains on the sale of YSI, Inc. stock, for instance, to fund the renovation of North Hall, the initial phases of the Art and Science building, the start of the Foundry Theater, the Wellness Center, and the central geothermal plant. The future plan calls for an additional $44 million over the next eight to 10 years for facilities that accommodate increasing enrollment and expanding curricula.

Since gaining independence from Antioch University, the college has been able to raise more than $60 million in gifts and commitments from alumni (27 percent participation last year) and friends of the college, according to the Alumni Magazine. That’s good news given that until 2021, more revenue is projected to come from major gifts than from tuition. But the pressure will ease as the Horace Mann full tuition scholarship phases out, beginning next year, and more student-derived revenue comes in to replace it.

The task to raise Antioch College again is “still a struggle,” Roosevelt said last week. But to balance transparency with what he called “uplift,” Roosevelt added more.

“The difficult part is if Antioch College is true to its real mission, it seeks an outsize effect on the world — that means we need to push each other,” he said. “The challenge is to dig deep  — the next year and a half will tell a lot about the story of whether Antioch is back or is not.”

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