HOLD UP: Wes proposes to eliminate need-blindness
Wesleyan’s endowment per student has historically lagged behind peer institutions, a problem frankly outlined here. And here:
Like a Tiffany’s status-piece slipped down the shitter it’s gonna take a whole lot more than a sturdy stomach and thick rubber gloves to rescue that gem. So what’s the solution? Here is President Roth’s:
Roth on Wesleyan “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.”
Next year’s tuition will be a pretty uncool $58,000 and with the potential elimination of need-blindness it would be hard for students to retain the certainty that their full need will be met, despite the school’s rhetoric. As much as the university is doing its best with a bad financial situation, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t stones remaining unturned.
Consider this article published by Forbes in 2009, describing the rise of college bureaucracies in which every assistant to the dean has an assistant.
“The ballooning of college administration has resulted in a sharp decline in labor productivity at colleges during a period of technological advancement that has improved productivity in most other industries. It has also occurred at a time when students are getting less for their money: Instruction has shifted from full-time professors to underpaid and overworked adjunct faculty. Three-fourths of new instructor jobs created over the past 20 years have been part-time positions. If the employment trends of the last decade are sustained, then administrative employees will outnumber instructors at four-year colleges by 2014.”
Along with the suggestion that in the grand scheme of the higher education machine professors have depreciated, there is also the implication that a $100,000+ salary for a dean’s assistant doesn’t come from nowhere–and if that $100,000 can come out of the home equity of future Cardinals, why not start with a structural redesign?
I’m not suggesting that President Roth and his board of trustees hasn’t already tightened the belt, I’m simply saying that if Wesleyan fails to lure talent away from jobs in other sectors to serve in its bureaucracy at similar pay rates big whoop. Nobody will notice the difference. Seriously. Talented, passionate, and highly qualified individuals are willing to work for $80,000 a year.
Now consider that the college overhauls its financial aid policy. The President throws up his hands: “we simply can’t compete! something has to give!” If that something is the ability of students to be admitted to Wesleyan regardless of their demonstrated financial need EVERYBODY WILL NOTICE. This is hardly an invective against robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, it’s a stance against robbing everyone of the educational experience they were promised by Wesleyan. That promise is consistent throughout the whole ‘Cac.
Although we understand that a certain amount of social engineering is included in the admissions process, we trust that these decisions aren’t made with financial motives. By all means, admit an Alaskan over a Tri-Stater for the sake of diversity–but don’t turn away that girl from Connecticut because she can’t pay.
Our whole lives we’ve been told that if we work hard enough we can be rewarded with admission to an elite college. The pamphlets are Utopian: no cost prohibition here for the leaders of tomorrow! If it’s all a sham, at least come out and say it. Come clean and say that you’ll fill a percentage of your class with moderately talented students that can pay full price or shame on you for perpetuating a false standard.
I’m not naive. I don’t expect my student loans to be forgiven by Uncle Sam. I walked into them with open arms, I traded debt for an elite NESCAC education because that was what I was told I deserved and I didn’t want to give up on that promise. If it was a mistake to believe I was admitted because the school believed in me rather than because they thought I was good for $53,000 maybe it was a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t one that the college’s president offered up as his best solution to a money problem.