Also: Roth discusses plan to link tuition increases with inflation, encourages three-year graduation.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the Affordability Forum with President Roth, I posted a brief history of need-blind activism at Wesleyan. In particular, I included an interview with Ben Foss ’95 about the 1992 occupation of North College following President Chace’s proposal to modify Wesleyan’s need-blind status. Wesleyan, I explained then, is today considering instituting a cap on financial aid, a policy under which the University would remain need-blind for 85%, maybe 90% of admitted students in the Class of 2017. Once that cap is reached, admissions would begin to take financial need into account in its acceptance decisions.
So Robert Alvarez ’96, a fellow activist and former member of Wesleyan Republicans, wrote in with additional reflections:
These were not exclusively “radical” undertakings by any means. Rather, they truly united the campus. [ . . . ] In fact, the Wesleyan Republicans that year wound up spending most of our budget faxing out press releases the day of the North College takeover (yes, go ahead and snicker, but you didn’t email stuff like that back then and faxing was actually pretty expensive). That type of broad-based organizing is tons of hard work, but it is also powerfully effective when you pull it off. I truly hope that a similarly broad-based coalition can come together and protect Wesleyan’s proud financial aid tradition once again.
Turns out Judgment Day is sooner than I realized. Today, at 9:30 a.m. in the Daniel Family Commons, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees will meet to discuss Roth’s budget proposals for the coming academic year. When the proposed budget passes, it will spell a short-term end to longstanding need-blind admissions practices at Wesleyan. It will also mean linking tuition increases with inflation and encouraging a three-year graduation route. The Affordability Forum hinted at a willingness to include Wes students in the ongoing discussion. So where is all the fanfare, the chanting, the debating?
President Roth has not been silent on all issues surrounding Wesleyan’s affordability and financial practices. In a recent guest post for the Washington Post, the President reflects on his own three-year graduation from Wes (“three marvelous years here were enough to set me squarely on the path of a lifetime of learning”) and suggests encouraging that accelerated path for similarly qualified students with financial concerns. “By making this experience a little more accessible,” Roth writes, “I am betting we will only add to the diversity and quality of the experience for all our undergraduates.” Additionally, he alludes to recent talks with the trustees concerning Wesleyan’s “unsustainable” model of tuition and financial aid and suggests “measures we can take to make the university more affordable while still ensuring the quality of an education that comes from face-to-face learning with accomplished scholar-teachers.”
The solution, concludes Roth, is not only to “make more visible” the possibility of graduating in three years:
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 summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical BA might be of genuine interest. In our case, allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20 percent from the total bill for an undergraduate degree.
But also to link tuition increases with inflation while minimizing excessive student loans:
In a new model we are developing we will be committed to spending almost a third of our revenue on scholarships while meeting the financial need of our students without requiring excessive loans. We will also commit to linking tuition increases with inflation, rather than depending on the much higher rates of increase to which Wesleyan (like most colleges and universities) has been accustomed for decades.
It’s an inspiring model—and a candid assessment of the affordability crisis that lands Wes on lists like Business Insider’s Most Expensive Schools. But nowhere in the article does Roth mention changes to Wes’ need-blind status accompanying that model. Here’s a brief rundown on the new (proposed) need-aware policy, courtesy of a source close to the Board who wishes to remain anonymous:
Wesleyan, as of Friday morning, will be instituting a cap on financial aid for the Class of 2017 and will no longer have a 100% need-blind admissions process. For this coming year (2012-2013 budget and Class of 2016), tuition is increasing by 4.5% and the amount of financial aid will be increasing by 15% over this year (this all already set). For the 2017ers, however, financial aid will be capped at 32%—which is 32% of the lump-sum of all the money we’d get if everyone paid full tuition. Tuition is likely to increase about 3-3.5% in the same year (for the 2013-14 budgetary year) based on inflation. For the 2014-15 budget and the Class of 2018, financial aid will be capped at 31%, the following year at 30%, and finally for the Class of 2020 at 29%, where it will stay until we dig ourselves out our fiscal problems. Once at 29%, tuition and financial aid will rise in sync with each other, based on inflation.
This will be more or less approved at the Board of Trustees Meeting Friday morning, which starts at 9:30am in the DFC.
When Wesleying contacted President Roth for further details on the financial plan, he pointed us back to the Washington Post piece and said he would be willing to talk about the situation once this week’s meetings have been wrapped up. That is, once the relevant decisions have been made. Given all the talk recently about including student input in significant administrative decisions (“on the financial aid side, I think it’s always good to consult more,” the President told the Argus), the timeline seems disconcerting.
Again, this is not the first time that the administration has proposed axing need-blind admissions to cope with budgetary crisis. There was the “Save Aid-Blind Letter Drive” in 1982. And there were the aforementioned series of protests regarding Chace’s five-year plan in 1991-92. This is merely the first time in recent Wesleyan history that students have permitted the decision to go forward. Whether that reflects on the state of activism at Wes or the dire state of university finances today—well, you debate. Discuss in the comments section. Or outside the DFC.
Event: Board of Trustees Meeting
Date: Friday, May 25
Time: 9:30 a.m. – ??
Place: Daniel Family Commons
- The 1992 Need-Blind Occupation: A Look Back with Ben Foss ’92, Wesleying
- Wesleyan president: A degree in ‘three marvelous years,’ Washington Post
- Students Push Back Against Proposed Budget Measures at Affordability Meeting, Argus
- Wesleyan Students Protest Proposed Changes, Courant (Feb. 28, 1992)
- Aid Protest to Continue with Rally at Wesleyan, Courant (Feb. 29, 1992)