November 2012 Monthly Update

Our Early Decision application total to date is equal to last year’s record, even though many have been granted extensions to our priority Early Decision deadline of November 1.  (Hurricane Sandy affected a number of high schools from which students apply, resulting in many receiving application extensions from us.)  As of November 14, we had received 130 Early Decision applications, compared to 131 as of the same date last year, which was an all-time high.  Students who decide later that St. Lawrence is their first choice can commit to Early Decision at any time up until February 1.  We review ED applications on a continual basis, and we notify Early Decision applicants throughout December and January.   Thirty-two percent of the Class of 2016 chose St. Lawrence through Early Decision.  

The Sustainability Semester will open in January with students and staff living at the Route 68 farm leased to St. Lawrence by Cornell Cooperative Extension. The JM McDonald Foundation has awarded the University a grant of $32,000 to renovate the classroom building for the Sustainability Semester.   The New York City Semester, having exceeded its goals for the first year, will be offered now both semesters of the academic year rather than just the fall semester. 

New Residence Hall
Our designated residence hall architects, Sacco & McKinney, have visited campus four times since the Board meeting.  Focus groups of students, residence life staff, facilities staff, student life staff, and senior staff, plus town hall meetings for students, faculty, and staff, have brought insights to the architects’ understanding of St. Lawrence culture and aspirations.  A subcommittee of the Residence Hall Planning Committee has reviewed proposals from nine general contractors and will select the contractor by early December, completing the team that will fulfill our goal to open the new facility August 2014.

Visual Identity Refresh: Communications is completing its work to update the University's institutional brand and will provide a preview of the refreshed word mark and a brand style guide during a campus forum in early December. More details on this project and the presentation will follow soon.

Website Redesign: The redesign continues to progress and is on target for a January launch. Communications and IT staff are preparing to migrate content into the new content management system and to train department content managers on how to use it.

University Advancement continues to raise funds for our top priority this fiscal year, the new residence hall.  To date, two trustees have expressed their intention to support this project with $1 million each, toward our $10 million 2012-2013 goal.  The St. Lawrence Fund stands at $2,036,278 in commitments, up from $1,847,398 last year at this time.  Through a trustee-to-trustee calling program this fall, we reached 100% St. Lawrence Fund participation (based on commitments) from trustees by the October board meeting – a signal to all Laurentians that improving alumni participation is a priority for the University. 

We continue with data cleanup, report development, and refinement of business processes to maximize the benefit that The Raiser’s Edge is capable of delivering to the entire University.  Integration with the Datatel Colleague (for HR and Finance] and SAINTS (for the Registrar, Student Life, and Student Services) will be launched shortly to ensure seamless and real-time sharing of biographical and other relevant information.  We look forward to the fundraising and engagement work we will accomplish with colleagues across campus with this powerful new advancement tool.  

On October 29, we launched a new and improved online alumni community, my St. Lawrence.  New features include the ability to view one’s giving history and submit alumni class notes online, along with enhanced alumni directory features and expanded resources for volunteers.  
Recent alumni events include Homecoming ’12.  Hundreds of alumni, current students, faculty and staff came together for a fall weekend of athletic competitions, affinity events, Alumni Council events, the Hall of Fame Induction, and a celebration of retired Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Joe Marsh.  

Health Insurance Rates for Administrators, Faculty and Non-Union Hourly Staff
We have been working very hard to find ways to offer options in health care, options that are cost-effective and beneficial for employees and cost-effective and reliable for University budget planning.  Last year, we introduced the CanaRx International Mail Order Program, the High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA) and a Dual Dental Insurance Coverage Option.  Response to these new options has resulted in the projected costs for 2013 being slightly less than our budget plans.  While the University’s health insurance costs will rise next year, for 2013 I directed the University’s budget to absorb those cost increases.   Therefore, for 2013, for participants in either the Excellus Healthy Blue PPO program or the Healthy Blue High Deductible Health Plan, rates for exempt staff and faculty will be the same as rates in 2012.  (Our unionized employees have their own separately negotiated health plans.)

Social Security Withholding 
As part of the 2009 stimulus package for the U.S. economy, Congress reduced Social Security withholding to 4%.  The lower level is set to expire December 31, 2012, and return to 6% on January 1, 2013.