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Dear Undergraduate Students and Parents:

October 31, 2008

The ongoing economic emergency has created considerable anxiety for many in the University of Rochester community. In these difficult economic times, I wanted to reach out and strongly reassure our students and their parents that the quality education you have every right to expect will continue, indeed be improved, and particularly to address those students and families now facing greater economic challenges.

The University is taking steps to ensure our financial strength. Our endowment, while not recession proof, is managed conservatively, to minimize losses in bad times. We are a lean institution, but we are tightening our belts, examining every office’s budget for potential cost savings.

Two weeks ago, our Board of Trustees reflected their trust in our future by approving ambitious strategic plans for each school at the University of Rochester. Initial benefits from our plans are already apparent.

We continue, for example, to enrich the College curriculum in response to student interest. Last year, we introduced majors in International Relations and in Economics and Business Strategies, and a minor in Business. This year, we intend to introduce several new majors in the area of Public Health.

Students at Eastman are participating in an ambitious strategic plan that is aimed at preparing students to shape the future of music. Simultaneously, they are watching the transformation of the Eastman Theatre into a magnificent twenty-first century performance space and the expansion of rehearsal and teaching facilities to reinforce the school’s high standing as one of the premiere music schools in the world.

On October 27, Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, and a representative of Governor Paterson joined hundreds of dignitaries as we broke ground at the Medical Center for a major new Clinical and Translational Science Building that was funded in part by $50 million in capital support from New York State.

We are a community, and we care about the effect of the current financial challenge on our students and their families. You sacrifice for a Rochester education, and we respect the commitment that you have made. Our corresponding commitment has been to admit students on a need-blind basis and to meet their full need. In these difficult economic times, we pledge to provide increased support for our need-based financial aid program: we have made special provision for assisting families who have to confront unexpected unemployment or major financial difficulties.

Any student or parent with questions about financial aid should call your financial aid officer at (800) 881-8234. Please let us hear from you if you have concerns.

As I write this, applications to the College and Eastman are up, and we expect to enroll another outstanding class of undergraduates next fall. Two weeks ago, the Chairman of our Board of Trustees, Ed Hajim, expressed his confidence in the University by making a multiyear gift commitment of $30 million, the largest such commitment in the University’s history.

Ed’s gift in part will support undergraduate scholarships and joins other recent gifts by fellow trustees that also endow undergraduate scholarships. Raising funds for additional scholarships will be a major focus of our fundraising efforts as long as I am here.

We take our motto of Meliora, or ever better, seriously. It reminds us to aim high, and it is particularly apt in challenging times. In all times, we take pride in being a community and in striving to educate and support our students.


Joel Seligman