[ Previous Chapter ] [ Table of Contents ] [ Next Chapter ]

THE finances of most literary institutions of higher grade are chronically bad.  A financier diagnosing the state of any college at any time during nine tenths of its history, would pronounce its case hopeless.  This results from a fundamental difference between institutions organized to make money, and those organized to spend it.  Colleges spend all their income, at least, and consequently accumulate no surplus fund to meet inevitable losses by investment or otherwise.  The wealth and benevolent disposition of the churches, upon which they generally rest, con-

stitute their reserve fund.  The contributions of the Church are not made to be hoarded, but to be used, not recklessly or extravagantly, but wisely, and under a full sense of responsibility.  A missionary committee that would economize with a view to a comfortable surplus, would hardly be in accord with the advanced sentiment of a Church.  A college Board of Trustees is a somewhat similar body.  From the necessity of the case, then, colleges are never happy financially, and it requires very little mismanagement to render their condition desperate.  But founded upon impulses that can always be touched, few, very few, die from impecuniosity.  The incidental allusions to finances in the preceding pages, show Dickinson to be no exception to the rule. The early records of the Trustees are taken up with reports, of desperate needs, resolutions to raise money, plans to raise money, appeals of the most urgent character, &c.  Much of the same kind of literature might be furnished from the records since its control by the Methodist Church, and it would be self-delusion in the friends of the College to hope to see the day when it might be otherwise.  One want met is only the starting point of a new want to be satisfied, just as absolutely essential to the efficiency and character of the College.  A few words and figures, however, may reasonably be expected upon this interesting subject in connection with the College.

Up to the year 1833, the College had received at different times sums amounting to about $50,000 from the State. Upon the assumption of its support by the Methodist Church at that time, a balance of $3,000 still due from the State, together with some bank stock, sufficed to payoff all indebtedness, and leave a surplus to be applied to repairs and the improvement of the grounds.  Out of subscriptions amounting to nearly $50,000 obtained in the Conferences by the agents, one of whom, Reverend E. Jones, subsequently became Bishop, and the centenary

collections of the Church, about $39,000, were realized and funded up to 1840. This amount was far below the expectations of the friends of the College, doubtless owing in great degree to the severe financial distress throughout the country during that period. The management of these funds was committed to separate Corporate Boards created in the cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia, and in New Jersey.  These Boards invest the funds, and pay over the interest to the Trustees of the College.  Of the above fund, however, about $10,500 were in the form of loans made to the College at different times to aid in the erection of East College and South College, and for the purchase of books and apparatus.  These loans were justified on the ground that the room-rent from the new buildings would more than equal the interest on the loans.  To meet the deficiency in the endowment fund, as first proposed, it was resolved by the Conferences to take up collections for the College, annually, in all the congregations in the patronizing territory to make good the interest, as it were.  In 1853. $7,000 of this small fund was appropriated to Wesleyan Female College, at Wilmington, by the Philadelphia Conference, on the ground that it had been originally especially contributed for the purposes of female education. The income from all these funds, after this date, amounted to about $1,000 per annum, to which was added receipts from tuition and from the Conference collections before alluded to, which were variable in amount.

In 1851, a plan of endowment, by the sale of cheap scholarships, was first considered, and in 1854 it went into operation, after subscriptions for scholarships had reached the minimum of  $100,000 as fixed in the plan. The expectation was not only to accumulate a fund in this way sufficient to place the College above pressing wants, but, also, to increase the number of students.  Certificates of scholarship, available for four years tuition in the College were sold for $25; for ten years, for $50

and for twenty-five years, for $100.  The plan was an excellent one, but poorly executed.  The minimum was too low, the expenses of working it were too great, and the collection of the notes given for scholarships not closely enough made.  The net proceeds did not amount to $60,000, not much more than one third of the amount originally suggested.  The most encouraging result, was the increased interest awakened, not simply in the College, but in the subject of higher education among the people, and the number of students rapidly increased.  This fund, like the preceding ones, was entrusted to the Education Boards of the Conferences. The floating debt of the College, about the same time, was $4,000, in part remaining from the erection of East College, and in part accumulated deficiencies, and to this was added a deficiency by the falling off in tuition before interest could be realized from the receipts for the endowment scholarships.  This was met for greater part by new loans from the Education Boards of the Conferences; the Baltimore Conference, however, replaced almost the entire amount thus loaned by it by special collections.

In 1856, in order to increase the revenue, $42,000 of the funds were invested in Galena and Milwaukee at twelve per cent. upon real estate security.  Interest was paid punctually for a few years, when it began to come in tardily from some investments, and in other cases, it became necessary to foreclose the mortgages and purchase the properties.  As current expenses could not be met by accumulated interest, however secure it might be, financial distress soon became very great, and further loans amounting to $10,997 were made by the Education Boards to discharge the floating debts, and a mortgage was given by the Trustees of the College to those corporations for the full amount of all loans made to the College up to that time.  Such relief, of course, could only be of the most temporary character, especially when for a year no interest was

received from the Baltimore fund.  In 1866, a similar crisis in affairs occurred, by reason of an accumulated floating debt without sufficient revenue from ordinary sources to hope to liquidate it, and continue the operations of the College on as broad a basis.  It was again agreed to ask a loan from the Education Boards, with the distinct understanding that no further accommodation of the character would be asked, and that the College should be presented as a prominent object for the Centenary offerings of the Church in that year.  From these efforts, the sum of $100,000 was realized, and what was of almost as great importance to the College, greater interest in it was again awakened.  The donations for the most part were small in amount.  The Sunday Schools contributed a large amount; each child contributing one dollar being entitled to a medal with the impress of the College and its motto on one it side.  These funds, like the preceding, were entrusted almost exclusively to the Education Boards.  Since then, the current income has been sufficient for ordinary current expenses, and to permit at times necessary repairs.

Although the recent financial crisis has affected some of the investments, they have been in the main of such a character as to continue productive, and some that have been regarded as almost valueless for years, have appreciated, so as to more than repair losses previously experienced. Thus property in Milwaukee has become salable, and what remains undisposed of, though unproductive at present, has a market value of $10,000.  A bequest of Thomas Kelso, late of Baltimore, of $10,000, is payable in 1880, and a bequest of $1,000 of Dr. John Fisher, also late of Baltimore, has been received during the past year.  The endowment fund at present amounts to $208,000, of which about $52,000 is unproductive.  The latter, including besides the Milwaukee property, worth $10,000,

and the Kelso bequest of $10,000, the loans made to the College by the Education Boards amounting to more than $31,000.

The financial administration of the College during the past twelve years can be characterized as eminently conservative.  The College is, in consequence, at present in a condition to present its claims upon the Church for recognition, with the assurance that every dollar contributed will go directly toward increasing the efficiency of the institution, and not be required to discharge accumulated indebtedness.  At the same time this strong financial position has unquestionably been retained at the sacrifice of numbers, and the prestige that new buildings, enlarged courses of study, and other advertising agencies impart.  Another loss of influence experienced by the College occurred in the discontinuation of the Conference collections after 1866.  Although the financial returns from these were small, and by too great urgency, when in financial distress, they may have made an unfavorable impression in many cases in regard to the College, they served to keep before the people the whole subject of higher education, and its claims upon the benevolence of the Church.  There seems to be no doubt that at the concurrence of the interesting centennial celebrations, in 1883, of the establishment of the College, and of the peace that acknowledged the Independence of the Nation, and of that a year later of the organization of the first General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, large additions to the resources of the College will be made. The Conferences, as well as the College authorities, have already inaugurated measures with that object in view.

[ Previous Chapter ] [ Table of Contents ] [ Next Chapter ]