Welcome back and Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed good holidays as we as we now launch into the spring semester. Here is an update to kick off the second half of the academic year.
By now you likely have heard the exciting news we recently shared regarding Peabody’s financial aid program, a development that will directly and materially benefit many current and prospective undergraduate students in the years ahead.
Beginning in fall 2024, the Peabody Conservatory will meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for all domestic undergraduate students, without loans. This means if you are a domestic undergraduate (U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident of the U.S., undocumented or DACA) eligible for need-based financial aid, you will have your full need met, and have no more student loans in your financial aid package. Beginning next year, a qualifying student’s demonstrated need will be covered up to the full cost of attendance through scholarships and work-study – money that student will not owe back. As an initial step, eligible current students also received a one-time grant this spring, with the move to full need, no loan packages happening in the Fall 2024.
The ability to meet 100% of a student’s financial need is unusual among conservatories or schools of music as most aid is in the form of merit-based scholarships. The lack of financial aid can negatively impact access for students with need. With this announcement, Peabody is the largest conservatory in the U.S. and one of only a very few of our music school or conservatory peers to make the commitment to meet full financial need.
At the same time, Peabody will continue its robust merit scholarship program for all students, including international undergraduate students and graduate students. As always, Peabody’s commitment to rewarding excellence remains firm, with all students considered for competitive merit scholarships during the admissions process.
Supported by institutional funds and philanthropic contributions, this is a truly transformational moment for Peabody and for our students as we invest in expanding access to a world-class education for talented students regardless of their financial circumstances. This continues and expands the work we began nearly ten years ago to build our investment in financial aid. With this latest development, Peabody will become ever more selective, while increasing access by removing financial barriers. I am thrilled to think of the many aspiring young performing artists who will realize a new opportunity to pursue their artistic dreams and ambitions, unencumbered by student loan debt, and go on to make an impact as artistic leaders in the world.
During the current academic year, Peabody has enjoyed the largest enrollment in its history – 815 students in fall 2023, well above last year’s record of 760 students, and well over the 2023-24 academic year target enrollment. As we now approach February auditions, applications for fall 2024 remain strong, with total completed applications running 8% over last year – 5% for undergraduates and 12% for master’s degree applicants. Of course, the important news on financial aid has ramifications for Peabody’s admissions process, selectivity, and yield, which combined with strong application numbers bodes very well for Peabody recruiting a very talented class. There will be much more to say on this as we move through the admissions process over the next few months.
On a parallel track with its strategic Breakthrough Plan 2024, Peabody has been executing on a robust financial plan to solidify and strengthen its operating position. That plan has entailed the elimination of long-standing structural deficits through new academic programs and increased fundraising. The budgeted plan for the current fiscal year, FY24, included a small operating deficit – 1% of budget – before beginning to generate planned surpluses in FY25. I am very pleased to report that as of the end of the second quarter, Peabody is now projecting a modest surplus for FY24, on track to reach this important milestone a year ahead of schedule, largely the result of exceeding enrollment targets. Financial stability is good news as it allows us to continue to invest in Peabody’s mission.
Meeting Peabody’s bold mission while ensuring financial stability also depends on a robust development operation. This past November, we were delighted to welcome Kirsten Lavin as Peabody’s new Associate Dean for External Relations, following a 7-month national search. With broad and deep experience and a 20-year tenure at Johns Hopkins University, most recently as Senior Director for Stewardship and Donor Engagement, Kirsten’s accomplishments included leading the solicitation and recognition strategy for trustees and advisory board members to build support for JHU’s Bloomberg Center in Washington; producing the celebration for the expansion of the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center and the Sustainability Institute of the same name; and having managed events and recognition initiatives for the $150 Million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute. Over the years, Kirsten has become the “go to” individual at Johns Hopkins when it comes to the critical work of stewarding and supporting high level donors. Kirsten also has a strong background in communications having worked in the Offices of Development Communications and Creative Services as Senior Associate Director, where she advanced the brand and position platform for the $6 Billion Rising to the Challengecampaign, which ended in 2013. Kirsten’s interest and love for the arts go deep having also majored in Oboe and Music Industry at James Madison University. Kirsten has hit the ground running here at Peabody, and we are delighted to have her on the team.
Every five years each of the schools of Johns Hopkins University undertakes an external review as a matter of due diligence and good academic and institutional hygiene. This is similar to Peabody’s regular reviews of each of its academic departments. Peabody last undertook this institute-wide exercise in 2019, and we are now preparing to conduct a review this spring. We have worked throughout the fall to prepare a self-study, which shows remarkable growth and success in areas including (though not limited to) enrollment, new academic programs, faculty development, student services, and diversity. This self-study will be submitted to an external review team comprised of three decanal colleagues from peer institutions who will visit in March and meet with many members of the campus community. The external review team’s feedback, provided to the President, Provost, and the Dean, provides an important and useful opportunity to reflect on where we are as an institution, and to both celebrate and take note of Peabody’s successes while also challenging ourselves to improve and reach even further. We look forward to this opportunity for institutional reflection.
In November, I reported on the very successful October opening of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. and Peabody’s important role in this moment. The Hopkins Bloomberg Center is a spectacular facility, including the state-of-the-art performance hall designed specifically with Peabody in mind. I was never prouder of Peabody than in our role in the opening. Trustees, advisory board members, university leadership, donors, faculty, students, and others all continually commented on how Peabody really “lit up the place.” In truth, it was a testament to the fact that music and dance can infuse life at any given moment in time in the most visceral way, with results unattainable through any other means. It was an auspicious beginning to the role that the performing arts will play in JHU’s new base in Washington D.C. and just a taste of what is to come in the months and years ahead. To that end, with numerous concerts scheduled going forward, we are already seeing Washington D.C. concertgoers taking note. Our concerts to date, featuring a diverse roster of faculty and student performers across a wide variety of repertoire, have been enjoyed by several hundred attendees, and there is growing interest.
The piano has long been synonymous with Peabody. In that spirit, we were delighted to have recently announced the return of Boris Slutsky to Peabody as Distinguished Professor of Piano following his appointment as Professor of the Practice of Piano at the Yale School of Music. Prior to his going to Yale, Boris was a member of the Peabody piano faculty for nearly twenty years. With the appointment of HieYon Choi as Professor of Piano at Peabody this past summer, Ann Schein’s return to Peabody, and Richard Goode’s appointment three years ago, along with other outstanding colleagues, Peabody’s piano program is stronger than ever and will continue to shine as a legacy of the Conservatory for years to come.
As you can see, we are continuing to make exciting progress here at Peabody with more to come. Stay tuned!