In early March, I wrote a letter expressing our confidence in Bennington's capacity to come through the current economic crisis and that the national environment was likely to get worse before it gets better. While we remain confident in our future, increased pressure on scholarship assistance, on fundraising from both individuals and foundations and on revenue from investments has led us to make some significant adjustments in next year's operating budget to assure the long-term future of the College.
In its June meeting the Board of Trustees voted to institute a faculty/staff salary freeze for this coming year. In addition to the savings from the salary freeze (equivalent to1% of the budget) we have reduced the overall operating expenses for next year by 4%.
We also have made the very painful and difficult decision to close the College's Early Childhood Center at the end of August. We have been proud to provide this important resource and service for our community for decades. Unfortunately, despite aggressive efforts to control expenditures and to find other sources of revenue the Center has run a substantial deficit over the years. Under the current circumstances we simply cannot responsibly continue to sustain the Center.
Much as I regret the need to take these measures, I can assure you of the fundamental health of the College. We continue to see record numbers of applicants, and will welcome a record 210 entering students to Bennington this fall; as well as a set an historic high for overall enrollment at the College with more than 650 undergraduates. We have avoided making cuts that would jeopardize future growth.
We believe these actions, while difficult, are sound and necessary. While the pressures are very real indeed, Bennington has weathered worse storms and we will weather this one.