CINCINNATI – A dip in enrollment and a state-ordered tuition freeze may have Cincinnati State in a period of cutbacks, but bluer skies are ahead if a five-year spike in fundraising is any indication.
The community and technical college ended 2011 with a very modest endowment of $2 million. It has tripled to $6 million thanks to one huge gift and a concerted effort to tap faculty, alumni and the larger community to contribute more.
"We see our recent and record growth as a strong indicator of our potential," Chief of Development Elliott Ruther said.
Cincinnati State's endowment is tiny compared to four-year colleges in the Tri-State:
• $1.2 billion at University of Cincinnati
• $460 million at Miami University
• $156 million at Xavier University
• $89 million at Northern Kentucky University
• $27 million at Mount St. Joseph University
• $15 million at Thomas More College
The two-year college cannot hope to match the larger four-year universities given their bigger alumni bases and the income that graduates with MBAs, law degrees and medical degrees generate.
"There are a heck of a lot more relationships that people have in this city with UC versus Cincinnati State," Jim Yunker, a veteran capital campaign consultant, said. "That's not a dig on Cincinnati State, but their graduates are not necessarily going to be at the same economic level as graduates of UC."
Despite the barriers, Ruther and other Cincinnati State leaders plan to continue the dramatic growth of the endowment and other funds through a comprehensive fundraising campaign tied to the college's 50-year anniversary.
"There is an appetite for (raising) tens of millions of dollars," he said.
Ruther said the school has seen three consecutive years of record fundraising, including employee giving more than tripling from about $30,000 in 2014 to more than $90,000 this year.
The 50th anniversary doesn't occur until 2019, but the Cincinnati State Foundation is nearly ready to launch the quiet phase of fundraising, during which the college would solicit donations from potential donors with the deepest wallets.
"When you compare (the fundraising goal) to what we have today, it will be significantly higher," said Mike Haunert, president of Sysco Cincinnati and chairman of the Cincinnati State Foundation board.
He supports the idea of Cincinnati State shifting its business model to rely more on a stronger endowment to support student financial aid and other growth at the college given the long-term trend of less state aid.
"We'll never rival UC or XU (in fundraising), but the needs are different, Haunert said.
He was drawn to serve on the board because of the direct impact Cincinnati State and other community colleges can have on lifting people out of unemployment or boosting their careers.
"A little bit goes a long way," Haunert said. "$5,000 a year makes a big difference. It's kind of a drop in the bucket compared to lot of traditional programs, and I'm drawn to the significant impact we can have on peoples' lives in the community with what can amount to a very modest investment."
President Monica Posey, who transitioned from interim to permanent president earlier this month, is leading an outreach effort joined by Ruther and Haunert to sell the impact that the college has on the local economy.
The outreach to businesses, high schools and community leaders is helping lay the groundwork for the comprehensive campaign.
"The goal is in the next number of years for there to be a sustainable culture of giving to support the college because the greater community appreciates how critical Cincinnati State is to the region," Ruther said.
"The fact that 90 percent of our graduates stay in our region is just one of the reasons why Cincinnati State is key to our region’s economy and so many initiatives for our region’s success," he said.
Yunker, who was impressed with the growth of Cincinnati State's endowment and fundraising, said fund drives fail or succeed based largely on the people involved, rather than the institution.
"Cincinnati is a very generous community," he said. "People to give to people, to people they trust and admire and organizations they believe in."
Haunert said Cincinnati State is taking time now to tell its story in face to face meetings around the Tri-State before making the big push for a ballooning endowment.
"We're going to need the support of everybody in the community. And we'll be able to demonstrate how important Cincinnati State is to our region," he said.