Community Day 2017
By Dr. Drew Bogner, President
I hope everyone had a great summer.
As you can see from the various reports, nothing remains quite the same as the month or year before - including at Molloy. Much of the news is good, some less so.
I spent a lot of time this summer up at my farm in Massachusetts experiencing the Zen of doing - with my hands immersed in the soil growing vegetables, flowers and hops. From this vantage point, you can really understand the intense rhythm of life - the enduring cycle of change that happens in the seasons' progress.
Change is the great leveler of society.
Let me begin by first acknowledging the changes that happened in our community over the summer.
We lost some special employees this summer, in particular, Kathy Belton, Helene Peters, Lisa Costas and Lauren Henkel.
Many people in our Molloy community also lost special people among their family and friends.
So let us please take a moment to remember those special individuals.
On a very different plane, within higher education, we have been, over the last decade, experiencing a series of changes that together have had profound effects.
The first major change to affect higher education was the great recession of 07- 09. As you know a speculative housing bubble triggered this recession laced with excessive consumption and borrowing on credit cards and mortgages that were all too easy to obtain. There was a dramatic loss of individual wealth as many saw their savings and retirements melt away in a series of historic stock market and home equity losses.
Companies shed jobs and governments cut programs and raised fees.
Many states faced with budget shortfalls cut programs like New York's Tuition Assistance Program that assisted students who were residents of the state pursue education at private colleges. States also raised tuition at public institutions. Thankfully, New York was an exception to this trend.
However, there was a dramatic shift in the college selection process by parents and students and in this; the colleges in New York were not immune.
Faced with real financial concerns, parents began to weigh affordability as a more important factor and the concept of financially safe schools was born. Apply to where you really want to go and also apply to a more affordable option in case you do not get the aid package you need at your top choice. Reading about a difficult job market, parents and students alike began to hone their choices of majors to those with the greatest job opportunities.
In many ways we benefited from this shift. We were the affordable private college option on the Island and we had a series of professional programs in fields where there were jobs, and let's face it, you had a better chance of getting a job to help pay for your college education on Long Island than in some small town in upstate New York.
To ward off competition from the more affordable and now suddenly more attractive regional public institutions, private college sunk enormous amounts of resources into scholarships - such that since the beginning of the Great Recession the net cost of private higher education in the State of New York has declined by $200. This series of short-term decisions to raise aid was deemed necessary to make enrollment goals, but came at the longer-term consequence of escalating average freshmen discount rates over 50%.
At Molloy, we engaged in this as well, increasing the percentage of the budget that goes to Institutional aid, but doing so carefully, limiting the freshmen discount to a more manageable 40-41%.
Higher Education is a historically a countercyclical industry, which means that as the economy falters enrollment goes up and vice-versa. It was no different in this recession, faced with slim job prospects many decided to stay in school and pursue graduate degrees immediately upon graduation. We saw this same trend at Molloy as well.
However, all of this came at a cost for many Americans and New Yorkers - people borrowed to do this and in record numbers. So that the amount of student debt skyrocketed. It attracted attention in the media leading to the next major change: the politicization of higher education.
For many years, higher education had been seen as a less explosive and therefore less important issue at the polls, but not anymore. On one hand, college education was seen as increasingly necessary endeavor for most every high school graduate. Parents were concerned as to how they could afford this necessity and now many were suffering with what they saw as an undue burden in terms of debt.
Let me take just a minute to do a quick primer on college debt. It is true that the total amount of college debt has increased dramatically since 2004 but that is a function not just of increased individual debt but also a result as many more Americans now being in college, both in undergraduate programs and graduate programs. Individual debt had actually been declining since its peak in 2010-2011.
The increased amount of total college debt is driven in large part by the increased amount of graduate debt. Think just for a second about how necessary graduate programs are becoming and you can understand how many more people are incurring debt. And as we know, there is much less aid available to graduate students than undergraduates, so graduate students routinely rack up more that $40,000, a number that is rare among undergraduates.
But real or not, student debt and an affordable college education were now issues that resonated with voters. The Federal government wanted to tamp down increasing college tuition debt and demanded accountability. A Federal scorecard was created and two factors reported on the scorecard were net tuition and average student debt. There were proposals at the federal and state levels to link a college's ability to award federal or state student aid to the amount of yearly tuition increase.
The dramatic culmination of this politicization was the free tuition concept bandied about in the recent Presidential Election. You are aware, of course, of our Governor's surprise announcement in January of the Excelsior Scholarship for free tuition for middle class New Yorkers to attend a state institution. As the Governor said in the ads that announced the program - it is the first of its kind. Currently Tennessee, Oregon and Rhode Island have programs for free tuition to community colleges.
How did this program impact us? Well on one hand, it is a little too early to tell - we won't know until mid-October how many students who were accepted at Molloy went to a public college in New York. But we do know that we were down in freshmen by 9% and down in transfers by 12%. We also know that every private college on Long Island except LIU Post is down, as well as St, John's, Iona and Marist to name just a few. We also know that Stoney Brook and Old Westbury are up.
We have already begun to have discussions about next year's budget. Some of the solutions are right in front of us:
1. We must reverse the enrollment trend
2. We must look for efficiencies: for example, in the schedule of classes as Ann discussed earlier.
We will be coming back in the next few months to continue this conversation with you. However, I know there is a lot of creativity in the Molloy community that can be brought to bear on this issue - so please share any ideas you have about saving dollars with me, Michael McGovern or Barbara Calissi.
In addition to these shifts that have been happening in the economy and in higher education, another profound shift has been occurring that is just as disruptive - the unwrapping of the American Sociological Tapestry into disparate blocks with increased hate and intolerance, polarization, tribalization and a lack of connections and dialog.
The world seems less kind and less accepting.
This puts a huge exclamation point behind the challenge that is in front of us and
why we need to solve it.
The world needs us.
At Class Night last spring I shared columnist David Brooks' story of how he went to the heartland to find out firsthand what changes in society had led to the surprise election of Donald Trump.
What he found was a society that had changed radically from being an interwoven community to a fragmented one. He found a lack of intimacy, a lack of social connections, with so many people falling through the cracks.
It used to be, Brooks said, that if you ask Americans "are most of your neighbors trustworthy? The majority would say yes. Now only 32% say yes and among millennials it is only 19% who say yes.
It used to be, Brooks continues, that people were living in homes with other people; only 8% of Americans lived alone a generation ago. Now it's 28% and in some parts of the country, it's 40%.
There has been an epic rise in loneliness. Even when we are with each other, we're often not totally with each other. The average person checks his or her smart phone 221 times a day.
The greatest challenge, I told our students, was not how you will earn a living after graduation but how you will connect with others - to connect in meaningful ways - to reach across the increasing fragmentation and find ways to be relational, to be in solidarity with the stranger and to find common ground with others who are different.
Given what has been happening across America I am struck even more so about how truly important the work we do is to society.
There is a need for community.
There is a need for justice and compassion.
There is a need to preach our values by words and deeds.
There is a need to for selfless-action.
There is a need to love and care.
There is a need to be responsible and empathetic.
While watching CNN just after the Charlottesville pandemonium, I was deeply touched by the words of Melody Burns, a visiting professor at the University of Virginia, so much so, that I replayed the interview twice, just to get them right. She said of America, that, "it is clear that our values system represents an alternative and furthermore a belief that we are called to be active citizens who promote peace and justice and accept the call to activate others to do the same, to be laborers in the vineyard."
I know you have heard me say this many times before; Molloy was founded as a transformational entity - to transform society into a more just and compassionate place. We do this through the education of our students whom we transform so that as alumni they can impact society.
And we transform society by the actions we all take, by what we choose to do, where we choose to be involved, what we choose to research and how we choose to treat each other.
Let me share with you a couple of stories of how our students have been transformed and what each is doing to transform the world.
Emily Levine is a graduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program. Recently, she returned from a medical mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica, where along with three classmates and two faculty members she provided speech-language services to children and adults. One of the children who she met on the trip, while extremely communicative had limited ability to communicate effectively with others because of his cerebral palsy.
While assessing him, it was determined that with a more technologically advanced device he could be more successful in communicating. With the intention of providing this child with a functional method of communicating, Emily called the manufacture of the NOVA Chat 10 device and convinced the CEO to sell the device at a 50% reduction. Emily and her three classmates then raised the balance through t-shirt sales and raffles.
In January 2012 Trisha Bermudez, began taking classes for her MBA in Personal Financial Planning at Molloy, two months later, she found out she was pregnant and during her pregnancy learned that her child would be born with a rare chromosomal deletion. Determined to finish her degree she graduated in 2014.
During the past five years, Trisha learned how difficult it was to navigate services for special needs children, especially where she lives in the Rockaways. She also learned that finding the right doctors, therapists and schools for her son required a substantial amount of research and it was a difficult system to navigate.
Therefore, Trisha founded Perfect Piece of the Puzzle. Its two-fold mission is to help parents who are struggling financially to care for their child and secondly to bring more resources to the Rockaways. Perfect Piece of the Puzzle held its first workshop for parents and grandparents in July.
Emily and Trisha are both examples of the transformational impact one person can have and the exponential impact Molloy can have in the surrounding communities and even globally.
So how do we keep doing that?
What can you do to help with the first real financial challenge we have faced in the 17 years I have been here?
First, I need you to help solve our immediate enrollment issue. We need to rebuild the enrollment for the incoming 18-19 class.
Specifically, Linda and Marguerite need you to share ideas and contacts. We need you to share highlights of an Open-House, Accepted Students Day, Campus Tour or Move-in-day or publication at other colleges so that we may learn from them.
We need you to inform us of personal contacts and provide an introduction to individuals such as guidance counselors, a family friend or relative in education, business or the community where there is a possibility of a collaboration.
We need you to provide an introduction to groups such as Veterans, homeschooled students' parent groups, PTAs, coaches and youth groups.
We need you to inform us of new initiatives being implemented by our competition.
We need you to share campus events not organized by admissions that have recruitment potential so that materials can be shared, or a campus tour conducted.
Linda and Marguerite have established a dedicated email address where you can share these items. TIPOFF@molloy.edu.
I know many of you already do this, but we also need your participation at open houses, and accepted student days as well as contacting prospective students.
This is really an all hands on deck year.
Secondly, I need you to tell the Molloy story.
Gather up and share the transformative and success stories of our students, alumni and all of you.
Share them with Diane: who has taken on the responsibility of building a new communication network.
We will then repurpose your stories onto:
internal newsletters and publications
We also need you to tell these same stories through your own social media and department newsletters and, of course in the old fashion way by word of mouth.
We need you to identify potential partners; individuals or organizations who belong with us on our transformational journey. Ship these ideas to Diane, or Linda, or to Ann, or Ed, or Janine, or either of the Michaels.
Molloy College and the work we do is unique because the impact is long and deep.
When I think of Emily, I think of the impact she has had on the one family in Jamaica. But also the impact on the CEO of Nova Chat 10 Device, or on our board of trustees or quite frankly on me.
When I think of Trisha, I think of the impact she has had on all of those families, each who can now impact others in a more transformative way.
Lastly, when I think of all of you - and the myriad of ways you impact hundreds each year who in turn will impact thousands more I am in awe.
And I am grateful and humbled to work alongside you.