The year ahead

August 21, 2023

Dear Colleagues,

“In summer, the song sings itself,” wrote the poet William Carlos Williams. I hope that was true for your summer and that you found time to enjoy family and friends, to recharge, and to reflect.

As the summer song begins to quiet with the passing days of August, I’m writing to welcome the start of a new academic year and to preview what’s ahead. It’s a year that will call on us to come together to respond to a set of challenges and opportunities as significant as any we have faced in decades.

The challenges and opportunities before us are real, but so too is the importance of what we do here—the consequential education we provide to our students and the new knowledge and understandings we create about ourselves and the world. Our College’s history is marked by change and adaptation in service to this compelling mission, and I am confident that, together, we will continue to shape a vibrant and dynamic future for the College.


As I write this, the first-year class has begun to arrive on campus. It’s an extraordinary class, drawn from the largest applicant pool in the College’s history. It reflects the College’s growing national and international reputation, with representation from 33 states and 34 countries, including 105 international students. Thank you to every member of the community who helps prospective students see themselves at the College. A particular thank you to our colleagues in Enrollment and Educational Services for their work in recruiting such an exceptional group of students to Gettysburg.

For as strong as the class is on multiple dimensions, it also tells us that the demographic changes we have been anticipating for many years are here and here with an intensity we must address.

Despite record applications, the first-year class totals 614 students, against a budgeted target of 650. Not long ago, our entering classes were in the low 700s. The same pressures are reflected in our tuition revenue, which is the principal source of support for the College’s budget. Because fewer students are enrolling and those who do are paying less, tuition revenue has declined for several years, with an 11% decrease in this year’s entering class compared to the previous year.

We have talked as a community about the reasons for these trends, starting with the heightened competition for a shrinking number of college-age students. We can take some comfort knowing that our experience is not unique—large portions of American higher education are similarly situated—but that reality does not take away from our responsibility to look at these accelerating trends with clear eyes and to respond to the significant budgetary implications they create.

On October 4, following the September Board of Trustees meeting, we will meet as an employee community. We will discuss the College’s budget, including enrollment data, retention rates, financial aid commitments, fundraising, and alternative revenue sources. We’ll also continue and sharpen the conversation we have been having as a community about our response to these deepened challenges. More information about the employee meeting will be shared in the coming weeks.

We have already taken important steps to strengthen the College’s position. Faculty, staff, and students came together during the pandemic to create an ambitious and visionary Strategic Direction. Early signs indicate that the plan is taking root. Last spring, we publicly unveiled the Gettysburg Approach, centered on equipping every student with enduring skills and knowledge, including through new Guided Pathways and Personal Advising Teams. Over 75% of the incoming class has opted in to the Guided Pathways, reflecting our ability to adapt to meet students’ evolving needs in an increasingly competitive market. Our momentum is reinforced by other exciting initiatives—like the new master's program in American History, the newly adopted core curriculum, and the beginning of the leadership phase of our comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Realizing our vision will take time, we must continue to act with a commitment to innovation, adaptation, and an openness to change. By working together, I have no doubt that we will emerge from this moment of change a stronger, more vital institution.

The new academic year brings with it the opportunity to shape our brightest future. The choices we make now will have a profound impact on the education we provide for our students not only over the next four years, but well into Gettysburg College’s third century. I look forward to building this future with you.


Bob Iuliano