Weathering a Crisis
The disruptions wrought by COVID-19 brought unbudgeted expenses in the millions. Alumni, parents, and friends are helping to ensure the College can keep delivering on its mission and values.
As COVID-19 forced big changes on campus, it quickly became clear that the expense would be significant. It also became clear that the Haverford community would pull together to help.
In mid-March, Haverford, like so many institutions, faced new and growing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, the College established guiding principles to succeed in its educational mission while also continuing to live its values as a community. (Along with providing an excellent liberal arts education, those guiding principles include safe- guarding the health and well-being of Haverford students, faculty, and staff, and contributing to the greater good.)
“We responded quickly to do all the right things for all the right reasons to ensure the well-being of the College community and the greater public safety,” said Charley Beever ’74, chair of the Board of Managers. In an email to alumni and parents, he outlined some of the immediate steps taken: “We enhanced the technologies needed to deliver our exceptional academic program online. We are sheltering and caring for students who are unable to return home. And we have not hesitated to do everything possible to strengthen and nurture the community that is—and will always be—Haverford.”
Haverford also committed early on to continuing to pay all regular employees and student workers through the end of the semester, including those who could not do their work remotely. When rebates for student room and board fees were organized, several families inquired about how to donate their refunds back to the College to help other families facing urgent financial difficulties.
Unlike many peer institutions, Haverford chose not to create an emergency fund to meet the unprecedented demands of the pandemic. The College was already acting to keep students safe and on their educational paths, and programs to assist the most vulnerable members of the community were in place.
LIFTFAR (Low-Income and First-in-Their-Family Assistance and Resources), a program established in 2016 to help students deal with unexpected and emergency expenses, became an increasingly important mechanism. Last year, LIFTFAR fulfilled 167 requests for financial assistance, meeting basic needs for medical, travel, and educational expenses. Students have used LIFTFAR awards to repair eyeglasses, have their wisdom teeth removed, purchase winter coats and boots, and travel home to family funerals. Most of the awards were under $200.
This year, LIFTFAR awards skyrocketed to 460. “We expanded eligibility and sent $1,000 or more directly to 298 qualified students to use in whatever way was most helpful,” said Emily Johnson, a member of the dean’s staff who coordinates the program. “We decided to remove the burden of applying, and we wanted to make sure we reached everyone, even if they were reluctant to ask for help. We covered things that were normally outside of LIFTFAR parameters—like groceries and rent—because we didn’t want vulnerable students to struggle,” she explained.
Johnson reports receiving “a lot of sweet and moving” feedback from the beneficiaries, including an email saying “I really, really appreciate this help. I am crying because I was really worried about not being able to go back to Haverford this fall. I’m incredibly grateful and hope this message can be passed along to everyone who helped make this possible.”
Among the supporters of the program is the Class of 2020, which (following in the footsteps of the Class of 2019) committed their senior class gift to LIFTFAR. In addition, Students’ Council decided to redirect their unspent spring activities budget to LIFTFAR. “Haverford is a strong community, and we look after each other,” noted Rebecca Richie ’20, who became a first-time donor with her class gift contribution. “I know I will always be a part of Haverford, and I know how rewarding it is to help the College.”
To spur giving to LIFTFAR and other priorities like financial aid and annual giving, a group of several donors banded together to offer a $250,000 match. While the goal seemed ambitious in the face of global economic uncertainty, the challenge was met and surpassed in just a few days. “We had no idea how this would be perceived, but the Haverford community was understanding and positive,” said Director of Annual Giving Craig Waltman. “Every year, we count on the broad participation of alumni, parents, and friends,” he notes, “with every individual doing their best.”
When making online gifts in response to the challenge, many donors added enthusiastic comments. “Just as Haverford has continued to influence my life for the better over the many decades since I attended, I hope it will do so for all its students. Bravo!” wrote William Mock ’73. “I wish this gift could be more,” said Claudia Hartmann ’90. “I have never been more proud to be part of the Haverford community, and I appreciate everything the College is doing to support students and keep staff and faculty safe. Thank you!”
Generous offers of help came from near and far. Haverford parents Haiyong Fu and Lilin Hua spearheaded the shipment of gifts of protective masks made by the families of Chinese members of the Class of 2023, many of whom were unable to return home when the campus shut down and the College moved to remote learning. “Although we are thousands of miles away, our hearts are with our kids, with all the faculty, and with the Haverford community,” they said in a letter. “Thank you for all of the caring effort in supporting the international students during this difficult time.”
Haverford is fortunate to have entered the spring semester in a strong position, with a large, talented pool of applicants for admission to the Class of 2024. The College’s budget is carefully constructed, and endowment and ongoing financial operations are managed in a way that is proving flexible and resilient. Haverford’s ability to deliver on its commitment to mission and values has remained solid.
With unbudgeted expenses already in the millions, the final cost of Haverford’s response remains as unknowable as the future of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it seems certain that the College will continue its principled approach to navigating challenges, and that the Haverford community will remain strongly committed to its success.
SUPPORT STUDENTS DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
Haverford is committed to helping students of all backgrounds succeed despite the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your gift will help provide the tools for all Haverfordians to continue their education.
- LIFTFAR (Low-Income and First-in-Their-Family Assistance and Resources) was established in 2016 to meet exceptional needs that fall outside of Haverford’s generous financial aid policies. Now expanded, current LIFTFAR funding helps remove financial barriers for travel, technology, and health care that can cause vulnerable students to struggle.
- Financial Aid is needed by more than half of our students to attend Haverford every year. Your support of the current financial aid budget of nearly $30 million makes a vital, personal difference to students and families facing difficult financial circumstances during the pandemic.
- Unrestricted annual gifts support everything that makes a Haverford education excellent no matter where our students are: our world-class faculty who care deeply; a connected and supportive community that responds nimbly; and the caring, ethical values that unite us always.