Board of Trustees approves new operating budget
Tuition increases by 3.5 percent
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 16:05
President Bottomly announced on Tuesday, April 24 that the Board of Trustees has approved the new operating budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The Provost’s Budget Committee (PBC) and the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), comprised of Trustees, faculty and staff, collaborated together to create the budget for the upcoming year. The new plan sets the tuition fee at $55,114, a 3.5 percent increase from the 2011-2012 fee.
“We are sensitive to the added strain that families of college students feel as the cost of higher education in this country continues to increase,” Bottomly wrote in an e-mail statement to students and parents. “Wellesley takes this point very seriously, which is why we have made the very deliberate decision not to let the College’s fiscal challenges—stemming from the economic crisis—be the determining factor in setting the comprehensive fee each year.”
A 3.5 percent increase is the second lowest tuition hike at Wellesley in ten years. As of April 3, the average increase in tuition at competing schools was 3.7 percent. According to members of the PBC and the BAC, both committees discussed the economic burden on families in detail during the planning process.
“The PBC was very concerned about the financial needs of our students and their families,” Donna Ng, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Finance, stated. “Tuition has become a larger expenditure for many families [while] family income has remained relatively flat in constant dollars, in particular among middle income families. In an effort to address this growing concern about affordability, the College wanted to moderate the single year fluctuation in the comprehensive increase.”
The tuition hike comes at a time when a number of colleges across the country have begun implementing campus affordability initiatives to lower the costs of higher education.
According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, 18 colleges, including Mount Holyoke, have decided to freeze tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year. Wellesley College has not considered implementing such a policy, partly due to a concern that a tuition freeze may be unsustainable in the long run if the College wishes to maintain a balanced budget.
Adding to its financial constraints, Wellesley is still recovering from its massive endowment loss in 2008-09 during the height of the financial crisis. However, the College has emphasized its commitment to affordable education through increased financial aid packages.
“The assumption in our budget is that family contribution will not increase for existing students,” Ng stated. “The financial aid grant provided by the College will increase as a result of the comprehensive fee increase, and the student and her family will pay the same. The College is need-blind for admissions and therefore, the financial aid expense for the entering class will depend upon the financial need of that class.”
Marjorie Cantine ’13, newly elected College Government President, acknowledged the strain on students and families and called for a broader conversation about the rising costs of tuition.
“Many college students and their families across the country are understandably frustrated by the annual tuition increases that institutions of higher education announce,” Cantine said. “Personally, I think we’re about due, nationally, for a conversation about higher education, its costs, benefits and the preparation institutions are giving graduates. Affordability has to be a part of that discussion.”
Students agree with this statement and express concern for those students who may be disproportionately affected by the increase in tuition.
“It affects students who are on financial aid but are still struggling to pay the amount of tuition that they’re expected to pay... A lot more than [it affects] other students,” student Megan Budge ’12 said. “I’ve been in that boat, and I can imagine that if I were going to be here next year, it would be really stressful for me.”
“It’s a tricky situation,” student Catherine Burdge ’14 offered. “It’s hard when you’re trying to afford the necessary things for a college at this high level when prices go up and you need to adjust your tuition costs… I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to work to pay for my tuition, so it doesn’t affect me directly. However, there are so many students here who do work hard to pay for their tuition, and it’s difficult for them when it goes up by [$1,400].”
Many of the students acknowledge the complexity of the College’s financial decisions and expressed curiosity regarding the details of the operating budget. Although much of the budget has remained the same, part of the funds in the next five years will be set aside as debt service on the $100 million in new bonds, which the College issued to help launch the initial stages of “Wellesley 2025: A Plan for Campus Renewal.” The new budget also includes increased funding for the maintenance of on-campus facilities and buildings.