by Nathaniel Shahan
$61,100 is the new price tag for a year of education at Kenyon. This is up 3.75 percent from the $58,890 for tuition and fees in the 2014-2015 academic year. The Board of Trustees approved this tuition increase at its February meeting in New York City held on Thursday and Friday of last week. The tuition increase is coupled with an increase in the College’s operating budget, according to a press release about the meeting, available on the Kenyon website.
This year’s tuition increase is in line with those of other schools Kenyon’s size, and represents the second increase in as many years, according to board chair Barry Schwartz ’70. Though the 3.75 percent does represent an increase in year to year price percentage increases according to President Sean Decatur who noted that last year the tuition increase was 3.65 percent. However, Decatur explained that, despite upcoming expenditures, such as elements of the Master Plan, he would “like to keep tuition increases as low as possible” and the board did not consider a significantly higher increase.
The tuition increase covers a 5.96-percent rise in the health and counseling fee to cover a new accident-only health insurance plan; “the plan will cover accidents at 100 percent up to $5,000 per injury,” the press release says.
Further changes to student health care include the opportunity to take part in a $1,400-per-year insurance plan, mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The College’s current optional insurance plan is now no longer compliant with the ACA, according to Decatur.
“If we’re going to have optional insurance, the law now says that that optional insurance has to be Affordable Care Act-compliant,” Decatur said. The ACA mandates a more comprehensive health insurance option, beyond what Kenyon currently offers, which “really wasn’t a comprehensive, full-blown health insurance program,” though Decatur noted that most Kenyon students receive insurance through their parents’ plans and waive the optional program. He also made clear that the new insurance will cost approximately $1,000 more, for a total of $1,400 per student than the current optional insurance plan but he affirmed that it will be a much more inclusive plan covering more than the previous plan, which was only a minimal “accident-insurance” plan.
The budget total for the 2015-2016 fiscal year is $134,471,000, an increase of 4.62 percent over last year. This increase covers a variety a spending measures, including a 2.5-percent increase “to the salary pool for faculty, administrators and non-union staff for the next fiscal year,” as stated in the press release. The release also notes several programs related to attracting students in need of financial aid that both Decatur and Larry James, a trustee, for which both expressed enthusiasm. The budget also includes an increase of $200,000 in financial aid for “middle-income students.”
The budget includes an additional $15,000 for a fund for students seeking unpaid internships, a program that James applauded. With the increased importance of internships, James noted the need to tie “those programs to the academic experience” and said he believes in the expansion of programs to make unpaid internships available to those who would otherwise be unable to afford a non-paying position.
“Kenyon has done extraordinarily well over the years,” James said, from his point of view, he explained that “we are in a tremendous place in order to maintain the quality of the institution in all aspects. It [the budget increase] just seemed that that was the appropriate thing to do.”
The press release also makes note of a $300,000 “commitment to enhance compliance with federal Title IX mandates.” This money will increase the presence of Title IX regulations on campus, as new staff and educational programs are funded to come into full compliance with the federal law. Professors too will also receive additional training in Title IX, which will be funded with this budget increase. Both Schwartz and Decatur said Title IX was not discussed, though, according to Schwartz, it will be discussed at the April meeting.
With five years until its projected completion, the Kenyon 2020 plan was also a topic of discussion at this month’s meeting. Decatur, the leading force behind this project, presented updates on the plan and indicated three main priorities the College is focusing on. The priorities include an emphasis on “bridging the classroom experience to life off campus” explained Decatur. This priority connects to the increase in funding for unpaid internships. Building up the enowment is another area of improvement Decatur is planning, in conjunction with the College’s intentions to bring more diversity to campus. Lastly, the 2020 plan will place focus on interactions between students and alumni and creating a greater sense of community among those on campus and those who have graduated. The board “will consider a final version of Kenyon 2020 at the April meeting in Gambier,” according to the press release.
The focus of this meeting was primarily the budget, but this means more than just dollars and donations. This year’s budget increase led to a discussion of the importance of providing aid to those students in need, and providing specialized and targeted aid, such as internship stipends. While the focus of this meeting was the budget of the College, Schwartz and Decatur both confirmed that there was no discussion of the Master Plan, though Decatur speculated that there would be a discussion of the plan at the April meeting.