Sustainable Affordability

Just before Reunion-Commencement weekend, I discussed changing some of our assumptions for budget planning with the Board of Trustees. This followed several months of discussions with faculty, students and staff on campus. After the February board meeting, I met in an open session with the Wesleyan Student Assembly, as did the treasurer and chair of the faculty in subsequent weeks. I also led a discussion of budget priorities in an affordability meeting with students, and reported on our economic planning to faculty at various meetings. Throughout the year, Joshua Boger and I have been discussing these ideas with alumni groups.

At the Board meeting we discussed planning the 2013-2014 budget with some new assumptions, which are described below. Our goals are to make Wesleyan more sustainable and affordable while maintaining our commitment to providing the very best liberal arts education. In the fall, I will continue discussions with the various members of the Wesleyan family. Together, we will chart a path that creates the conditions that will enable the university to thrive long into the future.

Over the last few years there has been a marked increase in attention given to college affordability. As the cost of higher education (both public and private) has continued to climb, and as the prospects for economic growth continue to dim, many have wondered about the value of an undergraduate degree.

Despite this disquiet about college generally, during this same period the number of students trying to gain admission to Wesleyan has increased dramatically. Thus far this year we’ve accepted fewer than 20% of the students who applied. Our total student charges will increase by 4.5% next year, reaching $58,000, which provides about 74% of the revenue it takes to run Wesleyan. Our financial aid budget is projected to increase by 15%, which means we will be allocating about $50 million to scholarships in 2012-2013.

For years, we have followed this same pattern: tuition increases well above inflation, and financial aid increases that go far beyond that. Although this works well enough for families from the highest and lowest income brackets – the former don’t worry about a budget and the latter don’t have to pay – we’re squeezing out middle and upper-middle class families. Furthermore, this budget model isn’t sustainable.

Over the past 20 years, the percentage of the tuition charges that goes to financial aid has risen steadily. In the past, Wesleyan has dealt with this issue by raising loan requirements (replacing grants with loans), and by taking more money out of the endowment (or just spending gifts rather than directing them to the endowment).

One way to change this dynamic is to cut costs, and we have substantially reduced expenses without undermining the academic core of the institution. In my first year as president in 2007-2008, we canceled almost $200 million in planned capital expenditures. We also made difficult decisions that resulted in $30 million in annual budget savings and increased revenues. We have improved energy efficiency and re-negotiated our health insurance coverage.  We have also reduced our exposure to increases in our debt service costs while developing a program to begin repaying some of the debt the university incurred in the 1990s.

But I have also introduced measures that increase pressure on the operating budget. In 2008, we reduced loans for most students by about a third, which I still believe was the right thing to do given our claim to “meet full need.” And we also began placing a much higher percentage of the money we raised each year into the endowment. Our endowment per student is well below most of our peer schools, and it seemed vital to build Wesleyan’s economic foundation. While we do this, it is also essential to have funds to run a great university right now.

This year I have proposed a plan to trustees and the campus with three new components to make Wesleyan more affordable in ways that can be sustained. The first is to establish a “discount rate” that is as generous as possible, but that is also one we can afford. The discount rate refers to the amount of tuition the university does NOT collect, and it is the key measure for financial aid. For Wesleyan this means just under a third of our tuition charges will go to financial aid. This is approximately the percentage of the budget devoted to aid from 2000-2008.

We remain committed to meeting the full financial need of the students we enroll, and to do so without increasing required student indebtedness.  This may mean that we will have to consider the capacity of some students to pay, as we do now with transfer and international students. We will read all applications without regard for the ability to pay, and we will be need-blind for as many students as possible. Currently we project this to be about 90% of each class (depending on the level of need). We could retain the label “need blind” by raising loan levels or shrinking grant packages – but this is the wrong thing to do. We feel it is crucial for the education of all our students to meet the full need of those who are enrolled without increasing their debt. As we raise more funds for the endowment, we will be able to build a more generous and sustainable financial aid program.

The second component of our affordability effort will be linking our tuition increases to the rate of inflation. We have already moved into the realm of the country’s most expensive colleges, and this is not a list on which we want to remain. Restraining tuition increases will require us to maintain our search for efficiencies while also investing in educational innovation across the curriculum.

The third component is to emphasize a three-year option for those families seeking a Wesleyan experience in a more economical form. We will help those students who choose to graduate in six semesters get the most out of their time on campus. The three-year option isn’t for everyone, but for those students who are prepared to develop their majors a little sooner, shorten their vacations by participating in our intensive Summer Sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical BA might be of genuine interest.  Allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20% from the total bill for an undergraduate degree.

I am convinced that these measures will enable us to preserve access to Wesleyan for capable, creative students while preserving the essential qualities (great faculty, diverse community, excellent facilities) that these students want. We are justly proud that so many who are so talented want to be part of the Wesleyan educational experience. With thoughtful planning, which will involve continued discussions with students, faculty and alumni, we can ensure that this remains the case for generations to come.

23 thoughts on “Sustainable Affordability”

  1. Telling students they should figure out how to get out in three years is NOT financial aid! The world is different from when you graduated. Furthermore, liberal arts schools emphasize a constructive community. Please stop trying to turn Wesleyan into a school that just focuses on a high turnover! If I wanted to go to a school where the administration wanted to just get me in-and-out, I would have gone to a public university where I could have gotten a year’s worth of credits for my AP courses.

    Once we lose the title of Need Blind, the middle-class will further be squeezed out because it sends a clear signal that affordability is not our priority.

    The economist in me also finds it ironic that you want to penny-pinch your way out of a difficult economic time. I sure hope you have never supported any kinds of Keynesian stimulus in the past.

  2. It’s very sad that Wes is giving up the status of need blind. I hope you’ll regain it soon. This is quite a blow for a college that prides itself on its idealism.

  3. I wrote this poem as a jaded counter-poem to one that a fellow classmate of mine wrote but I think it expresses the issues I had with my Wesleyan experience. Issues that would only be further pronounced by the “sustainable affordability” put forward here.

    I had no other desperation than to survive you
    For you held promises of freedom,
    Which is always lost amidst various ego-centricities.
    Yours were the drugs that denied me
    The true knowledge I sought.
    I remember the winters
    I remember the winters and the night
    I remember the nights in the winter.
    Listening to the voices in my head
    As they took over my thoughts,
    The moon the only light to shine on my mind’s eye
    As I peered upon the weary students
    And dropped further into darkness,
    We learned about our differences
    And celebrated adversity.
    Our he, she and zhe’s
    Lost ground to our J.O.B.’s
    As they tore down our social theory and
    Wore down our ideals and social practice
    Turned Lezzies into LUGz.
    So we lost our rhythm and forgot how to wine
    Gave up our music just to keep time.
    Gave up our dance in the dual degree
    And challenged ourselves to challenge ourselves
    We were: Che, Castro and Neruda
    But unlike the legends whose echoes never fade
    And voices never die.
    Our cultures like our chalking fell to the wayside
    The only legends that live are lies.
    We dictated justice,
    Pounded our chests,
    Held candlelight vigils,
    Exposed our breasts,
    Brandished our words that fell away like morning mist
    On Andrus field, but to no avail.
    Our insurgencies were bound by red tape
    Never to be cut.
    Our battlefields like our brains, our basements and
    Our tunnels
    Were painted over and covered with euphemisms.
    Our histories, re-written went unnoticed,
    Our words burned like the flames of MoCon
    Only to be celebrated, then ignored, then forgotten.
    “Race is a social construct” we chanted so loud
    That we never heard the replies.
    We were all on continuums of endless acronyms of
    Mixed race shims
    Our harmony discordant with the world and the city
    Our tears of anger mistaken for pity.
    We were the FUNK
    Without the music
    We hustled each other and hustled ourselves.
    I remember when I said I would be dancer and a poet
    But the music stopped and the words were lost
    Among the metal and glass of Zelnick Pavilion.
    I remember when we were late nights
    At summerfields, stolen food and vomit
    In the butts, church and x-house, vomit.
    And the dawn would come.
    Our stories, though varied, held the same tone
    Of how the weight of the world fell on us alone.
    And we pledged to no flag, no town and no creed
    Demanding individuality.
    But out voices were lost to barking dogs and
    We were eclectic.
    And the pepper spray brought the storm,
    Which brought the chaos, which quelled,
    And we learned to survive as we always do.
    Even as we watched our fields torn down and
    Fauver dorms erected.
    I had no other desperation that to succeed you
    For you were the harbinger of doom,
    Which is always found amidst various ego-centricities.
    Yours were the lies that begrudged me
    A calm and restful sleep.
    But I also remember the peace
    The spring bringing life to college row
    The magnolias reminding us that winters pass and life renews.
    We refined ourselves and bonded after our exams massacred our spirits.
    We administrated remedies for the diseases of deception.
    Cognizant of compassion, we were mercenaries for each other and our passions blazed anew.
    And the summer came so suddenly.
    I remember the night
    When sleep would not come
    The streets lights invading our privacy through unfeeling windows
    I remember the cold:
    Miller’s pond no longer warm enough to be welcoming.
    Algorithms too complex even for the smoke on the Hill to solve.
    SciLi betrayed our science and became the lie.
    MoCon, cold, gone, forgotten.
    Main Street a mere mirage
    A skeleton of its former self.
    We were college kids living in a business.
    We were Wesleyan
    Wesleyan was no longer us.
    As our red blood rolled down the hill towards the podium
    Our hats and backs screamed Tenure Isaac and Doug grumbled away
    Ignoring our hearts and our gowns
    The cash register rang as we walked out
    Our wallets crying for our futures
    Wesleyan, the business
    On Wesleyan bells tolled
    But Under Wesleyan humanity was lost to the rot
    I had no other desperation than to survive you
    For you held promises of freedom,
    Which is always lost amidst various ego-centricities.
    Yours were the drugs that denied me
    The true knowledge I sought.

  4. Cutting need blind is a drastic measure that will greatly reduce Wesleyan’s diversity as well as prestige, and should only be taken as a last possible resort.

  5. Schools with need blind: Williams, Vassar, Princeton, Amherst…
    Schools without: Skidmore, Bard, Wesleyan

    You’re putting us in a worse category of institutions…

  6. President Roth,
    Thank you for this thorough and frank explanation of a difficult (which is to say, complex and also hard to swallow) topic.

    Some questions that arise for me:
    1.) Under the proposed shift from being need blind for 90% of applicants, for what percentage of applicants will you now take into account a student’s ability to pay during the admission process? How much would this change things? How many students do you expect that would have been offered admission at Wesleyan under a need blind policy will now not be due to their inability to pay full tuition?

    2.) To what extent, if at all, has Wesleyan worked in concert with other top universities to reduce the expenditures?

    3.) What are the principles guiding your strategy on what and how to reduce costs? What things are off the table to cut? What do you mean by “efficiencies?”

    4.) Who are the decision makers in this process? Who has input?

    An assessment: This move would seem to increase affordability for those students who get in to Wesleyan, at the expense of decreasing admissions access to low and middle income students.

    An off-the-cuff proposal:
    Take into account a student’s/family’s ability to pay AFTER the admissions process – and not before. Why the discount rate for all families? If it actually costs $80,000/student to attend Wesleyan, charge that of those who can afford it. Of course, this would mean that Wesleyan’s tuition for high income families would be out of step with that of peer universities – unless a coalition of universities agreed to do the same.

    Marisa Suescun

  7. I am profoundly dissapointed to hear that Wesleyan will end ‘need blind’ admissions. As someone who works in higher education, I understand the challenges, the ‘amenities arms race’ that colleges and universities face. The plan to tie increases in tuition to inflation is admirable. However, by limiting need blind admissions, you are saying to students that those who cannot afford it have will have an even HARDER time trying to get in, since they will be competing against each other, whereas students without need will have a better shot at getting in, since they won’t be subject to the 90% cutoff. This is the message you are sending to students with limited finanical needs, essentially, ‘you can apply, but your chances of getting admitted will be less than students who can pay’. How will the admissions office truly make those decisions and parse out who is worthy to recieve aid (and admission) and who is not? Students will think, ‘Should I really apply, becuase they might not admit me because I can’t afford to pay? How will I know that I got in (or not) because of that?’ Those are the questions wealthy students will never have to consider. And those students, of which I was one, a little more than 20 years ago, will not consider Wesleyan. They will see themselves as ‘second class students’, who are not really wanted or only wanted up to a ‘certain point’.

    When I applied to Wesleyan, as first generation college student from a working class family, I applied in large part because of need blind admissions. I knew that whether my family had the means would not affect the school’s decision on whether or not to admit me. I would be evaluated on who I was and what I was capable of, and not what was (not) in my parent’s bank account. When I got that admission letter from Wesleyan, I knew that is where I wanted to be, even though I had gotten a full ride elsewhere. My parents warned me that this would be my responsiblity because they could not help. I accepted the loans every year, had work study jobs every semester till I graduated, worked every summer and break instead of having internships like other students, who didn’t have to contribute financially to their college education. Sometimes it was hard being the only one who did not have spring break plans, a car, or a study abroad experience, but most times I didn’t feel different. I felt privileged to be at Wesleyan and took advantage of every opportunity presented to me. Wesleyan introduced me to a new world of opportunities and experience and gave me the confidence in myself that made me who I am today. While you may believe removing need blind admissions effectively for only 10% of an admission class will not signficantly change Wesleyan, I am not so sure. For years I have worked in alumni admissions for Wesleyan, hoping to find students who are bright, curious, passionate and want to grow, and not be limited by their economic means. I imagine I will see even fewer of those students than I have seen in recent years. To transcend our socio-economic status has become harder and harder to do in the United States in recent decades, and unfortunately, by removing need blind admissions Wesleyan will only contribute to that widening divide.

  8. So sad…
    I don’t think I would ever have been a student had President Roth been in place prior to my admission (longing for the days of Dougie B???). The 50% of us on financial aid were a tight bunch. Those of us who went to public high schools and grew up (actual, not fancy East Coast) middle class. I appreciated all the swanky extras, the seminars with 8 students, the flashy dorms and Spring Fling. If asked to choose between a pared down Wesleyan education or no Wes education at all, I would take the pared down in a heartbeat. I am where I am now because of Wesleyan. I am WHO I am now because of Wesleyan. How many of our current trustees have ever had a student loan? I paid my (thankfully only $25k) student loans off a few years ago. It was annoying, but completely worth it. My work now is about educational opportunity and college access/success for students far less fortunate than I ever was. Wesleyan is not University of Phoenix. We can provide students and families with the information, transparency and honesty they need to make informed choices. I am sympathetic to the difficult position in which Wes finds itself, and know that there is no easy answer. I just hope there’s a real appreciation for what this change means. Students, far cooler than I am, will never have the opportunity to experience the best education available on the planet. Never give in! Fight ’till the end when might and right shall win…Very sad for all of us.

  9. I cannot begin to express how disappointed I am in how this has all played out. This post makes it seem as though the move to losing need-blind status is something that “may” have to happen, but the article I just read from the Chronicle of Higher Ed makes it clear that this is already a done deal. While I disagree with this step, perhaps, had alums been fully invited to be part of the conversation I could have come to see the logic behind it and perhaps I could come to agree with it, or at least respectfully disagree with it. This did not happen.

    Wesleyan knows how to reach me; whether it is to announce an event, ask for a donation, or for something completely inane like chronicling some recent alum’s job search, there is an email from Wes in my inbox almost daily. I have been an active volunteer, both when I was a student and over the past five years as an alum. Wesleyan asks me that I give my time, my money, my effort and my enthusiasm, and I answer that call and do so happily, because it is a place that I believe in. My passion for Wes is evident to anyone who speaks to me for more than a few minutes.

    Given this, it is extremely disappointing that I had to find out that this was happening from a third party. Other than a quick line in an email send 3/1/2012 about Wesleyan’s Reaccreditation Self-Study, there was no hint that this was happening until last month, at which point, presumably this was already a done deal. Where was the communication on this vitally important matter when there was still a chance to do something about it? Where were the calls to fundraise letting people know that if $X weren’t raised then need-blind admissions might have to be sacrificed? We are constantly hit with artificial cries for urgency that we have to give by end of this challenge or during GOLD giving month, but here, where there was real urgency, with real consequences if we didn’t act, we instead got silence.

    While I am extremely upset and saddened by this I won’t stop volunteering and I won’t stop giving, but the manner in which I do so will change. I used to give my gifts unrestricted, “to Wesleyan’s greatest need” but now I will be specifically directing them to financial aid. Giving an unrestricted gift was a sign of my trust and faith in the institution, but by not including alums in this vitally important conversation, Wesleyan has betrayed my trust. I encourage my fellow alums to do the same.

    I recognize that the Wesleyan community can be difficult to work with; we are opinionated, we are vocal, we are passionate, we are tenacious, we demand excellence, but these qualities are Wesleyan’s strength! These are what makes Wesleyan the vibrant, wonderful place it is. Without the Wesleyan community, all you have is some buildings, don’t alienate us. If you truly believe in what you are doing, you shouldn’t have to do so in this secretive way, stand up for what you are saying, invite us to the conversation, allow us to have input before it is too late. It may be easier to do things without asking the community to weigh in, but it is not better. Do better.

  10. This brings up all sorts of questions (building on Marisa’s post above) that I hope President Roth will be able to respond to before setting this policy in stone without community input.

    -What process did the university use to make this decision? It was not clear in advance of the Board meeting to anyone other than a select few WSA executive Committee members knew that need-blind was on the table, particularly at the Affordability Forum.
    -Will the university take any steps to preserve socioeconomic diversity in other ways?
    -How will the seats in the class be decided after the financial aid budget ‘runs out’?
    -By how much will the financial aid budget grow/be allowed to grow in subsequent years?
    -While you mentioned that tuition will be pegged to inflation and implied that this will impose a harder budget constraint, will the university make any effort to increase revenue or contain/reduce costs in other areas? Perhaps related to this: how much would the endowment need to grow before the
    -How much more revenue would need to be raised or costs reduced before Wesleyan could re-commit to ‘full’ need-blind status? Or alternatively, under what financial model would need-blind status be possible to maintain?

    I am not in favor of clinging to a not-so-meaningful label at the expense of making financial aid awards less generous, but I find it hard to believe that Wesleyan’s only two options for putting its fiscal house in order both involve shifting more of the financial burden onto students.

    This is a telling sentence:

    “I am convinced that these measures will enable us to preserve access to Wesleyan for capable, creative students while preserving the essential qualities (great faculty, diverse community, excellent facilities) that these students want.”

    What I (and many other students) have been concerned with is that you don’t also recognize that socioeconomic diversity is not only as a core value of Wesleyan, but also an essential quality that that students want. While accepting that Wesleyan I believe that these considerations are reconcilable with Wesleyan’s budget constraints. I am not in favor of clinging to a label over, but I also don’t think that this is a false. Under the current plan, the only major change that university is considering is deliberately making the student body less socioeconomically diverse.

    We understand that eliminating need-blind status and setting a fixed financial aid budget makes the budget more predictable. But many aspects of the budget are not perfectly predictable, like private gifts, which is one of the main source of revenue after tuition and fees. Financial aid is only a “cost” for accounting reasons–it’s really lost revenue, money that Wesleyan pays to itself to fill in the gaps of people not being able to pay full tuition. Filling the class with more affluent students does not solve the problem of unrestrained costs and Wesleyan’s dependence on tuition and fees for annual operating. Unless the university intends to complement this policy with other structural changes, this only addresses Wesleyan’s unsustainable financial model through decreasing the socioeconomic diversity of the student body and in doing so removing one of the core aspects of Wesleyan that made me want to attend “Diversity University” in the first place.

  11. I agree with the majority of the above that losing the need-blind label relegates Wesleyan in terms of prestige. It hurts the school’s mission to accept based on academic competence not ability to pay and it also hurts the student experience thru a loss of socioeconomic diversity as mentioned above by Jesse.

    From my perspective there is a lot of stuff we get at Wesleyan that I would gladly do without. I think the elite University arms race of amenities is partly to blame for the crazy tuition here at Wes. We have amazing food–vegan, vegatarian, kosher. We spend $100,000(more? I have no idea) on bringing musicians to campus. We have an entire Career Center that does everything short of paying your first years salary after Wes. Students are now demanding free STI testing. These are all great things–but they are unnecessary.

    If you’re a vegetarian you should be able to go off the meal plan and buy your own food to cook. Instead of bringing in expensive musicians with tuition money why don’t we just enjoy all the awesome bands here at Wes and play famous artists using some big speakers? Why don’t we just apply for jobs on our own? If a student at Wes isn’t competent/motivated enough to gain employment without a Career Center, what have we gained over 4 years? To my knowledge most Americans don’t just get free STI testing.

    I love Wes — but we are pampered here — and we’re paying for it.

  12. After reading President Roth’s post several times, reading all of the responses to his post and those of the article in the June 1, I am inclined to be supportive of these moves. For me, the keys are that the student’s “full need” will still be met, and the university will not offer a “faux need-blind” admissions policy by jacking up student loans in the total financial aid package (as some other elite colleges do). I also like the move to offer a three-year degree, as we are the very first “elite” college to do so. As Roth points out, this will potentially cut the overall cost by 20%–and remember, those students who select this option will still have their full need met.

    There is also the possibility that this move to “need aware” for the final 10% of admits may be temporary, pending our success in raising additional endowment funds.

    It’s easy to react emotionally to these moves, but as we used to say in my college days at Wes, “Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?” Roth is offering solutions to thorny problems, and I believe that colleges with similar-sized endowments to ours are going to imitate what Wesleyan has chosen to do. Our president has demonstrated leadership in taking these tough actions, and for the sake of the university’s future, we would all do well by supporting Wesleyan financiallyas much as we can as well as giving him some time to make these changes work for the benefit of the entire Wes community, whether in Middletown or around the world.

  13. President Roth,

    I have spent some time today on the Wesleyan website attempting to pull together the financial information that would give better context to the unprecedented changes you are suggesting here. The only things I have been able to find are the annual financial report documents going back to the 2003-04 academic year.

    Assuming those are the best materials to use in analyzing Wesleyan’s financial condition, might I suggest they be supplemented in two ways:

    1) Historical information going further back, specifically to the last time there was a proposal to alter our commitment to need blind in the early ‘90s. This could be as simple as uploading the annual financial reports for the additional years, something that would only take someone a few minutes.

    2) Five year financial projections for the University, both under our current policies and under your proposed changes. You are asking alumni to swallow a tremendous change to Wesleyan’s traditional practice. Given that, I think it is reasonable that we be able to see exactly how your team anticipates our finances changing as a result.

    Thank you for your time.

  14. I would go further. There should be a better way of monitoring the yearly financial aid “cap” that doesn’t entail waiting for it to “run-dry” before all the admissions decisions are made.

    Instead, why not require a cushion of a $1million or so (or a little less than 10% of the total frosh aid budget) to be used specifically for applicants from families in the middle-income range who are otherwise qualified for admission? This would mitigate the effects of the current proposal in several ways:

    1) It would slow the tendency for the percentage of “full-pay” students to rise with each succeeding class,
    2) It would meet the entirely laudable goal of increasing the “missing middle” by more efficiently directing a limited resource for that purpose, and,
    3) It would be no more (or less) “need aware” than the present proposal.

  15. Essentially I concur with the comments of David Gerard, above. While I understand the strong emotional response to an announcement that Wesleyan will not be wholly “need blind” in its admission policies, at least for some period of time, to me this announcement is tempered by what appears to be a thoughtful and responsible approach to de-escalating the arms race in ever-increasing costs of a private college education. I am exceedingly proud of Wesleyan for displaying leadership in this difficult –but important– area. I believe it is a sign of tremendous leadership that a school with strong admissions statistics, a rich academic program, and true commitment to diversity is taking bold steps toward sanity. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

    As a friend who teaches at a nearby law school recently asked his colleagues in a staff meeting discussing the topic of admissions and tuition: “Is this the same conversation a room full of mortgage brokers was having in 2007?” The costs of higher education have become completely unmoored from concern for the consumer over the past two decades, which is particularly hard on middle class families. My parents were divorced and had no agreement for how they would share the cost of paying for my education but, because I was an only child, my mother was nevertheless able to save enough working as a secretary to send me to Wesleyan for 3 years (I went –out-of-state– to an excellent state university my first year), debt-free. This enabled me to go on to work without loans, and then pursue a law degree, which I paid for entirely myself with savings and a reasonable amount in loans.

    This was the first year of the past eight that I did not serve an an alumnae/i interviewer for Wesleyan, as it has become clear to me while interviewing all I can think about is how the calculus of going to “the best school” they can get into may doom some of these candidates to a lifetime of wage slavery to their debts, or push them into career choices that are not in line with their values. As a future consumer (I have two children who are elementary-school aged), I have sadly lost faith in the “value” of the Wesleyan experience as relates to price. And I am, frankly, ill when faced with titles like “Paying for College Without Going Broke” by the Princeton Review, which blithely advises folks like me how to shelter income in order to qualify for financial aid. I have a fixed rate mortgage, I drive a 10-year-old car, I make my coffee at home and carry leftovers to work for lunch. We work hard to teach our children the difference between a “want” and a “need.” Call me old-fashioned, but all I’m looking for is sanity in pricing – and I don’t want to feel like I’m being worked over by a car salesman when it comes time to pay for my kids’ college education.

    Me? I’ve been waiting for an inflection point. And I’m hoping this is just the beginning.

  16. I am a parent of a terrific student and I would consider myself upper middle class. The cost of tuition is really hurting our family more than I had thought that it would when our student got accepted and we decided she deserved to go. We are asking for some aid and hope we get some or we might need to send our student to another school at some point. I would like there to be a balance between keeping tuition down and still allowing students who need help to get it. However, I have never believed in a complete need blind system, it cannot sustain itself. It sounds like you will be trying to work on this aspect. I do agree with others who say there are some things that can be pared down without diminishing the quality of the education.

  17. I take offense to Mr. Gerard’s comments.

    “we would all do well by supporting Wesleyan financially as much as we can as well as giving him some time to make these changes work for the benefit of the entire Wes community, whether in Middletown or around the world”

    Mr. Gerard speaks like somebody who works in management and does not have large financial concerns. Just saying that supporting President Roth is “doing well” does not have any real meaning.

    I think capping financial aid and moving away from need blind is NOT “for the benefit of the entire Wes community.” When Mr. Gerard mentions in Middletown or around the world, he seems to be saying “students and alum.”

    Most people do not know how schools were ten years ago. They just know the current reputation. Sure, we can drop need-blind, and our reputation changes. And when I graduate, my resume will have the school with the lesser reputation of somewhere that is not need-blind.

    Graduating from a school that is not need-blind is NOT what I signed up for. It’s not why I am thousands in debt.

  18. The administration can rationalize this all they want. The fact is that this was a move they attempted to make with minimum community input and a time when the majority of students were away from campus. I find it very hard to believe that this wasn’t strategically timed to coincide with the start of summer break, with hopes that the initial outrage would fade before students returned to actually resist it. It is our now responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen and to keep up the pressure throughout the summer and beyond.

  19. If Wesleyan is a symbol of independent, critical thinking which values intellectual activity and academic excellence on an individual level, compromising the need-blind policy invalidates the Wesleyan experience. It is truly sad that with this policy, Wesleyan has joined other institutions in reducing higher education to a function of income. It is ironic that conventional thinking and conformity has diluted the administraion’s creativity. Surely, there are alternative solutions. Middle income families and individuals continue to subsidize everyone, but cannot afford or struggle with the basic necessities of living. I value my MALS (1967) at Wesleyan and at the time the cost was reasonable. Is a BA at Wesleyan today worth the $100000 in tuition? I don’t think so. Education is free for anyone who has the motivation, perseverance and ambition to self-educate. However, in today’s world proof is required in the form of a diploma, and in the case of Wesleyan, an extremely expensive diploma. Let the wealthy and the super wealthy pay full tuition. Perhaps the millionaires and billionaires should pay in relation to their grossly inflated incomes. Middle income students could be assessed a flat rate consistent with what they reasonably can afford to pay. ( This might be based on tuition at a state university.) Those who cannot afford to pay anything could be given total financing which might be either grants or loans or a combination thereof. General fundraising efforts could be initiated along with cutting operating costs for unnecessary frills and extras not critical to the academic experience. A watered down Wesleyan in no longer a Wesleyan. You get what you pay would be a pathetic outcome for the proposed “solution” to the financial issues.

  20. Addendum: Tuition cost—$40000+/yr. = $160000+ for a BA.
    The median income of the US is $49000+ per year! I attended the State University of New York for my BS which at the time was tuition free! (Currently I believe tuition runs about $6000/yr. SUNY had and still has an excellent academic reputation. The motto of the State University of NY is: “Let Each Become All He Is Capable Of Being.” I always believed in that because it allowed all to achieve an affordable education. The question is how do we justify to the 10% that they are not welcome to the new and improved designer Wesleyan. Perhaps the motto of Wesleyan could be, let each become all he is capable of being if you can pay an annual fee which exceeds the median income. For a prestigious institution to remain such, 90% is not good enough. Partial need-blind is failure. Why not submit an itemized budget for interested alumni and solicit ideas for cost-cutting and suggestions for a better solution to “sustainable affordability.”

  21. >>For a prestigious institution to remain such, 90% is not good enough. Partial need-blind is failure. Why not submit an itemized budget for interested alumni and solicit ideas for cost-cutting and suggestions for a better solution to “sustainable affordability[?]”

    Because any proposal that starts with the suggestion that janitorial workers be replaced by student scabs is a non-starter, that's why.

  22. The response by Ron Medley does not appropriately relate to the quote he notes, and isut of context. Reducing the number of employees is simply one small measure of reducing expenditures. Since when are working students relegated to being called scabs? This is insensitive and disrespectful. Stating that my suggestion is a “non-starter is meaningless and is trivial in relation to my overall comments on this issue.

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