College starts funding drive

St. John's strives to raise $125 million


St. John's College kicked off a $125 million fundraising campaign last week to increase the school's $97 million endowment, help meet a growing demand for student financial aid and raise faculty salaries.

School officials acknowledged that the campaign -- dubbed "With a Clear and Single Purpose" -- is ambitious for the liberal arts college, which has about 900 undergraduates and 9,000 alumni. But they also noted that St. John's, which has campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, N.M., is under-endowed compared to peer liberal arts colleges.

"St. John's College is stronger than it has ever been in its history, and our supporters have expressed their confidence in the college through their gifts to the campaign," Annapolis campus President Christopher Nelson said in a written statement. "Now ... we'll extend the opportunity for our alumni and friends in both our communities to support the college's goals for the future."

Like many college campaigns, fundraising began privately among individual donors and foundations, so the public side will start with $71 million in gifts and pledges collected since 2002.

Ronald Fielding, a 1970 graduate, board member and chairman of the campaign, made a $10 million gift in support of financial aid, noting that he likely could not have attended St. John's without the aid he received.

Barbara Goyette, vice president for advancement, said the money will be used for some building projects that have been put off in the past and for raising faculty salaries and financial aid to students.

Tutors, as professors at St. John's are called, make an average of $69,462 teaching its well-known "great books" curriculum. St. John's places 33rd out of 40 similar liberal arts colleges in such salaries, with the median salary at $77,334. With the added funds, officials hope to reach the median.

Some of the money has already funded two new dorms, enabling the college to house 80 percent of students on campus.

"We try to meet the demonstrated need of all the students," Goyette said. "We're one of the few colleges in the country that still only give need-based aid."

Tuition is about $32,000 a year at St. John's, and 60 percent of students receive grants from the university averaging $16,000 annually. For the applicants with the greatest financial need, the college tries to make family contributions equal to the costs at the University of Maryland, she said.

"We have a high sensitivity for students admitted to the college," she said.

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