Notes from the Above-Ground: A (Very) Brief Go-Over on the Affordability Forum

So, coming off a particular thread of conversation that’s been popping up contemporaneously with the WSA Elections – this school’s affordability in the face of rising tuition fees – the WSA recently held a forum that brought in President Roth, Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts, and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Meislahn to speak to concerned students and provide their perspective on the issue.

We sent in one of our super-duper undercover reporters to oversee the proceedings. Scribbles from hir notepad after the jump. Also, remember to write-in your vote for WSA Election dark horse (or Horse of Color) candidate A-Batte. #anwar4lyfe

  1. Wesleyan Operating Revenue: 2005 — $188M, 2012 — $231M
  2. 70% of budget paid for by students who attend the university.
  3. 2013: undergrad financial aid = 29% of the Education & General budget. Financial aid budget going up 15%.
  4. Question: how much student tuition can we afford to give  back in financial aid?
    • Roth: “The zone is where you have the right mix of tuition payers and aid receivers.”
    • One solution: create a plan so students can graduate in 3 years — by taking classes for half-summer terms. Is it feasible?
  5. Student question: can Wes count more AP credits towards graduation? Middle class families can save $50k this way.
  6. Question from Ben Doernberg ’13: “Frankly, this pie chart shows me absolutely nothing. How can students take a voice if we can’t see the actual budget?”
    • Roth: “You can see it on the website.”
    • Roth: “I’m willing to share all the budget info I have that doesn’t compromise an individual’s confidentiality.”
  7. Doernberg again: implies that we should get rid of athletics, or at least stop spending so much money on it. “Well, one of them’s an academic.”
    • Roth: “25% of students play a varsity sport. Eliminate sports? what about those students? Who’s to say what is and isn’t Wesleyan?”
    • Roth: “It’s not up to me to say we’re not gonna do that anymore.”
    • Roth: “We should be as generous with financial aid as we can possibly be.” “Maybe work-study is too high.”  Wesleyan will be more need-aware in the coming years — especially with regard to wait list — “but we should be as little need-aware as possible.”
  8. Evan Carmi ’13: asks about how to be more open about this process, publishing these charts on Roth’s blog.
  9. Paul Blasenheim ’12: “I tried to get my peers to come to this meeting, but the resounding response was HELL NO. They don’t believe that you care about what we think, etc.” “The onus shouldn’t be on the WSA to set up a meeting like this. Y’all should organizing a meeting like this at least 4 times a semester.”
    • Roth: “I’d be happy to meet with a group of you and your friends,” etc, has office hours, makes public appearances on campus, etc. Roth mentions that he can take more initiative to organize these meetings
  10. Doernberg again, again: “The school spends 400 maintenance hours a year on cleaning up chalk.”
    • People start arguing about whether or not that’s relevant to the budget.
    • Roth refuses to comment on chalking issue.

Tough stuff.

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  • Anon

    My kid paid FULL tuition and would not have considered Wes if his athletic program didn’t exist. By the way, he’s now gainfully and monetarily generously employed. There is hope.

  • Anon

    Why can’t there be a legitimate option to opt out of the campus meal plan and campus housing? It’s pretty common at other schools and makes college more affordable for a lot of people. Also solves some of the recent housing issues. Was this addressed at all at the meeting?

    • Nope, it wasn’t. My perception is that that option is common at state schools and larger research universities—not so much LACs the size of Wesleyan or smaller, where housing is guaranteed for four years. I’d be curious for figures, though.

  • Keri Wild ‘N Out

    as long as everyone suffers equally–from the kids barely scraping together 1,000 a year to the upper-middle class families struggling to pay full tuition. I think the university is successfully ( at least from the perspective of how we can even the playing field) battling tuition hikes (assuming they’re relatively inevitable) if everyone is equally miserable. The only ones not miserable are those for whom full tuition isn’t an enormous financial burden. but then again, those people are usually pretty miserable because they are rich and their families are deteriorately due to addiction or a general lack of values. 

  • really?

    @10183a4765fba84396e2279d04afe4e7:disqus 

    Then explain to me the role of arts in an academic institution? If we’re going to attack athletics we should be looking equally at the arts. They both are equally beneficial to a well-rounded student…

    • When’s the last time

      someone majored in Football?

      We have professional artists coming out of Wesleyan; we don’t (so far as I know) have many professional athletes.

      • Guest

        some dude was getting scouted by MLB the other day actually

  • DMZ

    “immature prats” is one way to look at it. however, roth presented some pretty intense facts, including the fact that we’re probably going to start looking at people’s wealth as well as their applications. from what i hear, it also means targeting the type of person who can afford the hiked tuition. wesleyan is heading in a direction that makes a lot of us very uncomfortable. to me, it feels like many of the things i love about wesleyan, that gives wes its character, are being taken away. my favorite part about wesleyan are my classmates and friends and the conversations we have and the things we come up with. roth’s presentation directly threatens the wesleyan i have fallen in love with and therefore, in my opinion, it is very reasonable to be questioning the expenditures from different angles and to analyze all the various expenditures and how we can cut back.

    moreover, i very much hope (and assume) that if we are going to ends such as dropping need blindness and considering a “three year degree,” athletics will also see some cutbacks. i would much rather less sports than less financial aid (not that this decision is that clear-cut). moreover, everyone deserves a chance at this education. wesleyan is already an elitist, excluding institution and these moves look to make it even more so.

    the chalking issue is also interesting and tough for me in that i both whole-heartedly support chalking but don’t at all feel comfortable with the fact that maintenance staff are required to clean it up, further adding to both their workloads and our costs. i wonder how much lifting the ban would help. would they be made to clean the chalking even if it were legal?

    • 2012

      Wouldn’t they need to clean up chalk regardless? I mean, there were penises drawn out in front of Sr. Fauver for all of last week. The chalking policy was originally established because really “inappropriate” (read: sexist and threatening) comments were being made about other parts of the community. Now, clearly, that’s NOT representative of chalking in general. But writing on buildings is also problematic (what if someone starts doing in with spray paint instead of chalk? Where’s the line between chalking and graffiti? ), and I imagine the administration would want to remove inappropriate messages regardless of whether the medium were allowed or not.

      But that’s just part of Roth’s larger point, at least as I understand it. Running a University requires balances. Constructing lab buildings requires getting donations from alums who fondly remember their time on team x, y, or z. Attracting good students means convincing their parents that Wesleyan is a safe campus that is primarily dedicated to education. Acquiring good teachers requires offering certain benefits, including facilities that are at least passable (and some of ours aren’t…). ALL of these things require money, as does financial aid.

      In general, I agree with you about athletics. I’m skeptical of the 3-year degree plan. I don’t like being forced to buy the meal plan. I think my friends at Wes are awesome. But I also think blaming Roth for things that I don’t like isn’t really fair. Sure, he’s the one making the decisions, and maybe he should consult us more… but can’t you see why he doesn’t? The two WSA presidential candidates are currently both claiming that they’ll give students whatever they want. We’re demanding more points, study spaces, keeping the art library, paying the staff more, decreasing course loads, decreasing tuition, increasing financial aid, cleaning up after the messes we leave everywhere, not interfering with our lives, not preventing us from endangering ourselves, not preventing us from breaking CT laws… I wouldn’t want to deal with us either. Not that some of those demands aren’t legitimate.

      But, frankly, I think if the students care about these things–which they seem to–then it’s up to us to come up with solutions. How are we going to cut back to ensure that students continue to be admitted need-blind? Maybe that means that we stop trashing our living areas (hello… Sr. Fauver…), maybe it means that we accept that something else won’t be offered anymore. But the last time the WSA handled something like that, it demanded (note: not suggested, or argued) that tuition remain the same and that salaries for professors receive cuts. That’s not a workable solution. Personally, I’m graduating… so…

  • a coordinated person

    @Genuinely Curious……………this person as well as Doernberg are clearly uncoordinated and/or consistently got picked last for teams in elementary school gym class. now they’re bitter and want to ruin everyone else’s fun.

    • BenDoernberg

      That’s true, I was definitely not the most coordinated player on my high school basketball team.

  • Recent grad

    If this is the way students respond to Roth coming to WSA meetings, acting like immature prats, I don’t blame him for not setting them up himself. 

    • broke student

      With all due respect, you’re not currently a student at Wesleyan worrying about how you are going to cover the 4.5% tuition increase next year. I think students have a right to be upset that they are not more directly involved in decisions that have severe impacts on their finances. 

  • Genuinely Curious

    Someone explain to me the role of athletics in an academic institution. 

    • Huge Jock

      Mens sana in corpore sano

  • you embarrass me

    Athletics really? chalking really? you sound like a dick

    • BenDoernberg

      This is always the refuge of the dicks of the world, but these five word summaries of my questions don’t actually contain the substance of my questions or their context. 

      For instance, in regards to athletics, I was pointing out that the budgets posted online, which supposedly give students enough information to be informed and make suggestions about where our tuition money should be allocated, don’t even break out how much is spent on a specific department, such as athletics. Did I mention athletics for a reason, instead of janitorial expenses? Sure, but I think that information should be available as well. Roth replied by (among other things) asking if we should also track and distribute statistics on the amount of financial aid given to different students from different ethnic and religious backgrounds…

      In terms of chalking, Roth had just finished responding to a student who claimed she saw lots of wasted money around campus, saying “I welcome student feedback, please tell me where you see money being wasted.” I don’t think it was dickish to suggest that spending $50k or more a year spraying chalk with water is a waste of money, but maybe I’m wrong.

      • represent

        fuckyeah BenDoernberg!

      • *$20,000