Like most institutions of higher education, Meredith has no doubt suffered hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. From refunding student room and board fees last spring to losing out on about half of the expected residential and meal revenue in 2020-21, measures were taken by almost every department to help preserve long-term financial stability.
Despite the losses, a combination of record-breaking retention rates, stable enrollment, and generous giving from donors has resulted in Meredith’s endowment exceeding $136 million at last report. Compared to the average of private institutions’ endowments at $29 million, this news bodes well for the College.
One of the key drivers in Meredith’s recent endowment growth was the annual Giving Day held in February. This year, donors were asked to make a gift in honor of a changemaker in their life, someone who is making a positive impact at Meredith, in their community, or in the world. A total of 1,407 changemakers were honored, resulting in $771,521 raised for the College.
“Our endowment is a testament to our students, faculty, and staff that donors are passionate about contributing financially to Meredith,” said Vice President for Business and Finance Tammi Jackson. “I am excited that I will have a role in ensuring that those funds are used fully to our donors intentions - which is in essence to enhance the student experience; whether that is funding a new academic building, endowing a professorship or department chair, or providing scholarships to students.”
With student retention exceeding the rates of the last 20 years, it’s clear that the quality of the Meredith experience remains in high demand. “I am utterly convinced that post-pandemic realities will show that at no time have we needed more college-educated workers, thinkers, and contributors to our communities, country, and world,” said President Jo Allen. “Meredith students who are pursuing those degrees are essential to our national economic rebound, as well as to their own opportunities for success.”
Faculty, staff, and alumnae continue to show their commitment to Meredith, which has also contributed to endowment growth. “Our fundraising campaign, Beyond Strong, may have closed at the end of 2018, but love and support for this College continues,” said Allen. “The success of that campaign helped us exceed our original fundraising goal of $75 million by another $15 million, for a total of $90 million in cash, pledges, and pipelines.”
Ongoing success of the College’s philanthropic efforts is marked by estate gifts and gifts to “the greatest needs of the college,” which have certainly shifted since the pandemic began. Gifts to the greatest needs fund have supported the purchasing of new technology and other resources to improve the virtual learning experience for faculty and students.
“Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of our students recognize that they are gaining a Meredith College education and experience, even if it looks and feels quite different from what they anticipated,” said Allen. “Our ability to keep our faculty and staff engaged with these students ensures the same high quality that generations of Meredith students have experienced.”
A strong year of giving also allowed for the ongoing development of scholarships and other forms of financial support for students. The Impact Scholarship, which guarantees qualified students $20,000 a year, is one example of that support. Another is the growth of “gap scholarships,” which are for students whose financial circumstances changed during and/or because of the pandemic.
Meredith Vice President of Institutional Advancement Lennie Barton said that exceeding goals for giving in a year when the economy greatly suffered is a testament to how much the alumnae really love the College.
At the end of last fiscal year, Meredith had raised $16,250,347 - which was $4 million dollars above the goal. “For that to happen during a pandemic, when people have lost their jobs, family members, you name it - that’s something really special,” said Barton.
As Meredith approaches the end of the fiscal year in June, Allen, Barton, and the rest of the executive leadership team are confident that the College is situated well for surviving the pandemic with modest pain, thanks to generous donors, endowment growth, and strong reputational integrity.
“With careful budget management, donor support, attention to pandemic-related opportunities and resources, and the recognition of the quality of Meredith College, I am sure our students, faculty, staff, and friends will help us weather this trying period,” said Allen.