On Feb. 5, the Board of Trustees convened for their annual winter meeting. The Board approved a fiscal budget of $167,810,000 for 2021-22, including a 3.75% increase in total student charges, raising the total to $76,620 for the coming school year.
The meeting also included an update from the Strategic Planning Committee, as well as an approved resolution to reduce the size of the Board from 43 to 33 trustees over the next four years. Lastly, there will be a 1.25% increase in the general salary pool, as well as the reinstatement of the College’s contributions to 403(b) retirement and retiree health care programs, which will take effect on July 1, 2021. A third of the 403(b) accounts with their contributions suspended will be restored, with the goal of replacing the full amount over three years.
Total student fees during the 2019-2020 year were $73,930, but because of COVID-19, the administration discounted the price for 2020-2021 — including a 10% credit to tuition, and a universal dorm rate at $2,710 (the price of a double room). President Sean Decatur, when asked about the price change, said the marked increase reflects the nature of the pandemic. “[The] reduction of tuition and fees was an effort to acknowledge that the experience this year was different,” Decatur said. This academic year’s total charges were reduced, in part, because most students were learning remotely, as well as because of the limited campus life experience. “Next year, we are anticipating a return to both a full level of campus in terms of residency [and] a full level in terms of activities,” he said.
Additionally, Decatur said the price hike takes into account the increase in the financial aid budget for 2021-22. The financial aid budget will increase by 9%, totaling $47,825,000 for the coming year. According to Decatur, since 80% of the financial aid budget comes from tuition payments, the increase in total student charges reflect the changes to the financial aid budget, although Decatur did not specify why the financial aid budget draws from tuition funds. Future, nonspecific operating costs across campus also account for the change in total student charges.
Many students across campus are frustrated by the news of higher total fees. When asked about the price increase, Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 explained that it is the Board’s “responsibility to ask tough questions and to make sure that they are exercising their fiduciary responsibility.”
Concerning the update from the Strategic Planning Committee, Decatur said the discussion touched on the future size of the College, especially within the next 10 to 15 years. The Committee also reported on diversifying programming in the coming years, including in computer science, computational studies and in regards to the development of internship and other work experience opportunities.
The Board continued its anti-racism work as well, including having small group discussions facilitated by the Inclusion and Equity Committee. In addition, the Board received an update on the College’s re-accreditation review, which the Higher Learning Commission conducts every 10 years. The process will begin in late February.
Finally, Associate Professor of Italian Simone Dubrovic, Associate Professor of Physics John T. Gilbin, Associate Professor of Psychology Dana Krieg and Associate Professor of Spanish Travis Landry received promotion to full professorship at the meeting. The Board also adopted resolutions of appreciation for outgoing trustees John W. Adams P’93 P’13 GP’21 and Right Reverend Thomas E. Breidenthal.