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Presidential Update Spring 2011

To Hope College Alumni, Parents and Friends:

One of the many things I appreciate about Hope is the willingness to subject itself to the scrutiny of external evaluation. These evaluations can take two forms. The first and most rigorous is a required evaluation on which hinges a national accreditation. The second is a voluntary evaluation by a group of invited experts typically from similar institutions. We do this to measure ourselves against the highest standards and expectations of the academic community.

Hope currently holds national accreditations in 10 discipline areas as well as our overall institutional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The discipline accreditations are in the following fields: art, dance, music, theatre, chemistry, engineering, nursing, social work, teacher education, and athletic training. The voluntary external evaluations are sequenced so that every major is regularly assessed by peers from other reputable institutions. Subjecting the college to these various evaluations is time consuming, costly, and anxiety producing. We feel it is necessary and important to delivering the quality programs which Hope constituents deserve and expect.


In my fall Presidential Update, I indicated that we had enrolled 776 freshmen students for the fall semester. This was 34 fewer than our target of 800. At the semester we enrolled 25 more transfer students than typical, which helped to mitigate the shortfall. We know, however, that we will graduate Hope’s largest class ever this May. So even if we reach our 820 student target for the fall of 2011, we will have a somewhat smaller enrollment next year. This has been incorporated into our planning.

We are very pleased with the number and quality of applications for the fall of 2011. To date 3,498 students have made application. They have an average ACT of 26.6 and an average high school GPA of 3.78. With declining state and federal financial aid, keeping Hope affordable with scholarship gifts from alumni and friends is crucial to the actual matriculation of students at Hope. It is an anxious time for our admissions team and those of us responsible for delivering a balanced budget—something that Hope has done for 40 consecutive years.

Tuition, Room, and Board

The Trustees have approved tuition, room, and board numbers for next year:

Activity Fee


This represents a 1.9% increase, the lowest in Hope’s modern history. Dependent on enrollment, employees may receive a salary increase of up to 1%. Both the salary increase and the tuition, room, and board increase will be well below national increases and our benchmark group. In an effort to be sensitive to the economic times, especially in Michigan, the college has engaged in major non-academic stewardship efforts to keep a Hope College education affordable for students and their families. Maintaining the quality of the educational experience that Hope families have come to expect while simultaneously keeping the college affordable presents a continuing challenge. We expect that energy, food, and health insurance costs will present the biggest obstacles to controlling expenditures, while tuition and gift income will continue to be the biggest determiners of our revenue stream.

Co-curricular Activities

Hope academics are challenging. We expect students to earn an education, not just be given a diploma. Most of our students are diligent in their studies and demonstrate considerable growth on many different measures.

Yet, we know that not every waking moment is spent in the library, laboratory, or classroom. There are many hours each week during which students can engage in what we call co-curricular activities. Oftentimes these activities help to develop skills that are very useful over an entire lifetime, such as time management, teamwork, fair play, leadership, and interpersonal relationships. I’d like to mention several activities of special note this year.

    1. Street Scene by Kurt Weill. The music, theatre, and dance departments combined to perform Hope’s first full opera. More than 200 students, faculty, and staff were involved. It was an outstanding performance. I knew there was this kind of talent at Hope. I just didn’t know there was so much of it! It was an unforgettable evening that required planning, coordination, and disciplined practice to enable a production of this caliber. Our faculty directors were so proud of their students!

    2. Orchestra with five exceptional soloists. This was one of my favorite concerts of all time. The orchestra was outstanding, and five individuals performed superbly with 10- to 12-minute renditions of music from memory: senior pianist John Donkersloot, senior mezzo-soprano Heather Benson, senior soprano Sarah Ashcroft, sophomore violinist Luke Panning, and freshman pianist James Schippers.

    3. Men’s and women’s basketball. For the sixth consecutive year, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams earned a berth in the national tournament. No other college or university in the 455-member NCAA Division III can make that claim. Yet, sport is risky business! Like all performing groups, it takes innate ability, practice, and the ability to do well under pressure. Not always do things turn out just the way you hope they will. Our women’s team hosted rounds one and two at the DeVos Fieldhouse, and after defeating DePauw in round one lost to defending national champion Washington University of St. Louis. The loss ended the team’s winning streak in DeVos at 77 consecutive games and concluded a 27-3 season, with the three losses coming by a total of seven points. The men also lost in the second round in overtime after having won many close games during the season. Exciting seasons can end abruptly. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat provide experiences not unlike the joys and sorrows of everyday life.

Club Hockey

Hope fields a very competitive team in men’s club hockey that is ably coached by Chris Van Timmeren. As a club sport, the players receive some budget assistance from Student Congress, but much of the expense for travel and equipment is paid by individual players and their families.

For the 10th consecutive year, Hope earned a berth in the 16-team national tournament (no other team can make this claim), and for the third time during the same span the team finished national runner-up. Hope was the home site for the four-day tournament playing at The Edge Ice Arena just north of Holland.

Dance Marathon

More than 500 Hope student volunteers participated in the 12th annual Dance Marathon, a 24-hour event designed to raise money for the nearest Miracle Network facility—the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Teams of students raise money, interact with children facing severe illness, and develop long-term relationships with the children and their families. Across the 12 years since the college’s first Dance Marathon, Hope students have raised more than $900,000 for the hospital. While this money is important and appreciated, the relationships with the children and their families are most cherished.

Dance 37

Dance 37 is a clever title for 37 consecutive years of student dance performance! Students and professors together produce a very popular experience for the college and community. It is a combination of tap, modern, and ballet. From very humble beginnings, the dance program at Hope is fully accredited, nationally respected, and very popular. The Dance 37 concerts hosted five sell-out crowds at “The Knick,” the downtown Hope-owned facility.

When Martie and I were students at Hope, one dared not even utter the word “dance.” We did it, of course. We called them “foot functions” and held them off campus!

Stepping Up

I’ve heard it too often. “I love Hope. I just can’t afford to stay.” She was exactly the kind of student we want at Hope—academically able, involved in co-curricular activities and growing intellectually, spiritually, socially, and physically. This time it was a sophomore woman, the daughter of foreign missionaries. As a group, children of missionaries are disadvantaged because of the current federal rules regarding financial aid. This time, two couples heard her plight and took ownership of keeping her at Hope. They gave money for her tuition this year and raised money for her tuition next year and have started an endowed scholarship for other children of missionaries who will have similar need. Perhaps you have the resources to answer this call as well—to make a Hope education affordable for children of missionaries. Please call (616) 395-7073 and ask for College Advancement officer Lance Pellow.

A Death in the Hope Family

As I was writing this update in my office on Saturday morning, March 19, I received the call that all of us dread. There was a death in our college family. Dr. Jennifer Young Tait, associate professor of English and 2008 recipient of the “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator” (H.O.P.E.) Award, died suddenly after giving birth to her premature baby. Jennifer was a product of Hope’s Preparing Future Faculty program with Howard University in Washington, D.C. The program enables graduate students to teach half-time while completing their dissertations. I will always remember Jennifer for her exuberance and love of life. When she was announced as the H.O.P.E. Award recipient at commencement, she did a beautiful pirouette that surpassed the style and agility of any athlete I ever coached! The community mourns her passing with husband Ralph, infant son Solomon, and their families.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1

James E. Bultman, President