Section: News

Board votes to increase tuition, financial aid

Kenyon tuition and fees are set to increase by 3.95 percent for the 2017-18 academic year, as decided by the Board of Trustees at their winter meeting in Washington D.C. this past weekend.

This increase will bring the annual cost of Kenyon to $65,840, according to a report on the meeting prepared by the Office of Communications and released on Tuesday.

The tuition increase will help support an operating budget of $145,065,000, also approved by the Board over the weekend. This is a 5.56 percent increase over the current operating budget of approximately $137 million. The budget reflects an increased commitment to student financial aid, with an 11.8 percent increase in the financial aid budget to $34.9 million, up from $31,293,000 in the current fiscal year.

The focus of the Board’s winter meeting is to hear presentations and take a vote on Kenyon’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which will begin on July 1 of this year. The winter meeting is typically held off campus.

In light of the recent New York Times article featuring Kenyon as a school with more students from the top one percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent, the Board also discussed the College’s dependence on student tuition. President Sean Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian after the meeting that the data revealed in the NYT report was not surprising, but highlighted the issue.

Because the College is so dependent on tuition, “making progress on the tuition dependence of the institution is something that has to happen relatively slowly and incrementally,” Decatur said. “It takes more resources to help to counterbalance tuition and partially because those are changes that are very difficult to make in a quick pivot of the institution.”

Decatur said the Board is committed to increasing financial aid, but the College’s tuition dependence presents a challenge. “It’s basically nearly impossible to do a significant increase in financial aid without increasing tuition in some way, because those two things are coupled,” Decatur said.

Decatur clarified that money funding projects like the restoration of the Village is not money that would otherwise go toward financial aid. Money for those projects, Decatur said, was donated by people who would otherwise not be giving money to the College; part of the reason work on the new library has not moved forward is because the College is still in the process of securing funds.

The meeting report specified that in the 2016 fiscal year (July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016) Kenyon’s endowment lost money, returning -0.1 percent, according to data in the report from the 2015-2016 National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) CommonFund Study of Endowments. This is significantly better than the average of 805 schools surveyed by the NACUBO, which was -1.9 percent.

In addition to tuition and financial aid increases, monies available for salary and wage raises for administrative staff were increased by two percent, according to the official report. Money was also earmarked for salaries currently not in line with market rates. Monies set aside for faculty raises were also increased by two percent. Increases in health insurance premiums were also factored into the budget, according to the report.

Decatur updated the Board on recent projects like the Wright Center; the Mount Vernon building’s grand opening is today. Decatur also discussed how the College plans to implement recommendations in the recently completed Title IX audit.

Afterwards, the Board spoke at length about best practices for board governance. This included discussions on how the Board can best spend their time on campus, such as prioritizing meetings with community members. The Board hosted Cathy Trower, president of Trower & Trower Inc., which specializes in board governance consulting, to participate in these discussion.

Decatur said one of the Board’s priorities is to enhance communication with the Kenyon community regarding what the actual role of the Board is; the Board is more focused on long term strategic issues, rather than policies that affect day-to-day operations.

“Hearing student voices and concerns is very important and that informs the larger thinking of the Board, but actually very few Board actions actually impact the types of decisions I think students and others on campus are most concerned about,” Decatur said.

The Board’s spring meeting will be held in Gambier, from April 20-21.

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