“This year’s edition will be the last,” said Luther Smith, assistant vice president for student life. “We’re looking for someone to underwrite it, but unless something happens this summer, there will be no Musketeer annual club for next year.”
Smith said administrators have been wrestling with this issue for several years, ever since the University stopped charging all students an annual fee for the yearbook. Students then could call and cancel their yearbook and not pay the $55 fee, but when the fee was dropped and students were asked if they wanted a yearbook, very few have requested it. The current fee is $50 for those who want to buy it.
Under the old system, about 2,000 yearbooks were printed each year. Now only 400 or fewer are ordered. The bill last year was $25,000 to produce the book. That cost has been offset by contributions from Student Government Association, which also kicked in an extra donation at the end of last year to help pay off the debt, and from the office of student life, which also contributed more than $5,000 last year to erase the deficit.
It’s the same story again this year, Smith said, with a looming deficit of $12,000 after receiving orders for only 220 yearbooks. “We’re going to have to find a way to pay off the 2004 book,” he said.
After several possible solutions were explored, including selling advertising, charging all students again, or finding a sponsor to cover the whole cost, Smith said administrators have come up empty-handed.
Jim Jackson, executive director for major gifts in the development office, is looking for a sponsor to underwrite the cost either temporarily or permanently. Smith said it would take about $600,000 to endow the yearbook.
“I do not want to see it die. It’s been a tradition, and I’ve said students don’t see the value of it while they’re students, but 10 or 15 years down the road is when it becomes valuable,” Smith said. “We get a lot of requests from alumni for books after they’ve been out for a while. I do hope something happens, but we’ve been dealing with this for three or four years now, and at some point you have to fish or cut bait.”
Smith said the book could be revived at the beginning of the fall semester if funding is determined.