Jack P. Carroll ‘24
President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney delivered the annual President’s address at the October faculty meeting last Tuesday. Her presentation, which was shown to the Board of Trustees and the Planning and Budget Council (PBC) earlier this month, revealed the results of the “Summit: A Strategic Plan for the Future of Trinity College.” These findings, which will serve as the subject of Berger-Sweeney’s town hall this week, were collected over a five-year period from 2016-2021.
As the Tripod previously reported, the Bicentennial Strategic Planning Commission (BSPC) developed a set of goals in Oct. 2016 for Trinity to achieve in preparation for its bicentennial in 2023. These goals, which were adopted by the Trustees in the fall of 2017 and implemented through 2020, include: “1) being a relevant, top-choice college for students, faculty, and staff; 2) connecting our inclusive community even more deeply with Hartford and the world; and 3) creating a financially and environmentally friendly sustainable future.”
Berger-Sweeney began her presentation by sharing a series of strategic results from the last five years. She reported that Trinity’s annual financial aid budget increased from $42 million to $62 million. In addition, the one-year student retention rate rose from 88.5% to this year’s 91.4%. Berger-Sweeney also cited a recent COFHE (Consortium on Financing Higher Education) survey which found that 46.5% of seniors were satisfied with Trinity’s intellectual environment–an increase from 18.5% in 2018. Berger-Sweeney also shared that 93-96% of seniors report that they are employed, in graduate school or fellowships within six months of graduation.
She announced that drug and alcohol violations have declined over the last four years from 172 to 128. “We did not include last calendar year which was in the middle of the pandemic which we thought was an unusual year,” said Berger-Sweeney. “I thought that it was a little bit more important to share kind of apples to apples, and show that we have been changing the kind of students that we’re admitting.”
Berger-Sweeney reported that Trinity’s endowment has increased from $524 million to $783 million over the past five years. She confirmed that the College has raised $227 million towards its capital campaign; these funds include endowment, operating, and legacy funds. Also, during this time period, $77 million in deferred maintenance projects have been addressed on Trinity’s campus.
Her presentation then shifted to Trinity’s plans for the future. Berger-Sweeney began this segment by sharing goals developed by the President’s Commission for the Future. These goals include: building a $1 billion endowment, improving Trinity’s placement in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, investing in technology and data among a list of others. The Commission, which is led by Chair of the Board of Trustees Lisa Bisaccia ’78, developed these initiatives in the spring of 2020. Berger-Sweeney indicated that she did not serve on the committee.
“There was no formal written report from the Commission, but Lisa Bisaccia and myself [sic] — she was the chair of the commission — did present the findings to governance groups, as well as having [sic] an open session for anyone on campus who wanted to hear more about the Commission,” said Berger-Sweeney.
Berger-Sweeney concluded her address to the faculty by introducing a set of “Stackable Strategies.” These strategies, which will be implemented over the next five years, include: 1) Education & Academics; 2) Student Experience; 3) Enrollment, Retention, & Graduation; 4) Employees: Faculty & Staff; 5) Library & Digital Transformation; 6) Facilities & Sustainability; and 7) Outreach & Engagement.
When discussing retention and graduation goals, Berger-Sweeney announced that the College seeks to increase its one-year retention rate from 90% to 94% for the fall 2027 entering class. In addition, Trinity plans to increase its six-year graduation rate from 82% to 87% for the fall 2026 entering class.
Berger-Sweeney announced that retirement contributions for all employees were raised in September from 9.5-9.75% at the recommendation of the PBC. She also reminded faculty that the College has hired Segal, an external consulting firm, to complete an employee compensation study. The firm is currently examining positions for tenure and tenure-faculty members. Segal is also evaluating position descriptions and pay levels for employees at Trinity’s peer institutions.
The College plans to allocate $135 million for capital investments over the next five years. These funds will be used to improve heating and cooling infrastructure; residence hall renewal; science facilities; classroom renewal; arts programing and facilities; the Chapel; cultural houses; Cornelia Center; and athletics, health and wellness facilities. Excluded from the plans are Clement Chemistry Building and backfilling, changes to McCook Academic Building, and major renovations of the Raether Library or Mather Hall.
Furthermore, Trinity has set a $500 million fundraising goal for the Comprehensive Campaign ending in June 2025. Berger-Sweeney indicated that the College is expecting increased annual gift flow (2x) and bequest intentions (3x). In addition, Trinity plans to increase its volunteer fundraising corps by 50% and double its leadership donors (gifts $100K+).
In the Q&A portion of her presentation, one faculty member asked Berger-Sweeney when faculty will receive salary increases — citing concerns about inflation and Trinity’s salaries lagging behind its peer institutions. Berger-Sweeney responded by stating: “One of our strategic goals is to be a first-choice institution for faculty, staff, and students. I do not believe that you can be a first-choice institution without fair compensation. That was one of the reasons why I thought it was so important to do a compensation study.” She confirmed that the Dean of the Faculty Office and Academic Affairs are working with Segal to examine faculty salaries. Berger-Sweeney also indicated that it would take some time for Trinity to compensate faculty with money from the endowment: “As I mentioned, that doesn’t come immediately into our operating budget. But over a couple of years it does. I do believe that is a way I will be able to fund the compensation strategy that we have come up with.”