In a Feb. 10 news bulletin, President Decatur announced that tuition and fees for the 2022-23 school year will increase 4.5%, from $76,620 to $80,100. He also announced a 7.5% increase in Kenyon’s financial aid budget.
This tuition increase will make Kenyon one of the most expensive colleges in the country, more expensive than many other institutions, including Oberlin College, Yale University and Columbia University. Additionally, it marks another installment in a series of steep tuition hikes. Four years ago, Kenyon cost just over $68,000.
This raise in tuition comes as inflation is at a 40-year high, with a 7.5% increase in the Consumer Price Index over the last year. According to Burson, inflation was a primary reason for the price increase.
Decatur wrote in the news bulletin that the Board of Trustees and members of the senior staff made the decision to increase tuition carefully. “Any adjustment to our tuition and fees is made with considerable care, recognizing that a college education is one of the largest investments many families make,” he said.
According to Vice President for Finance Todd Burson, the College’s main expenses are financial aid and payroll.
Burson also said that all employees will receive a 4% raise next year, and that this was a primary motivation for the price increase, especially considering inflation. “We were very concerned about our employees’ purchasing power, and we need to make sure we give them as much money as we can to help them out with inflation,” he said.
However, Burson mentioned in coming years other costs may contribute to the price increases, including new initiatives in the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan like the computational studies major. Burson said Kenyon’s various construction projects did not factor into the decision.
According to Burson, Kenyon is committed to limiting future tuition increases. “80,000 is a very large dollar amount. I get it,” he said.
Despite this increase, Decatur said that students receiving need-based aid do not need to worry about paying more for Kenyon. “Need-based financial aid increases at the same rate as tuition,” he said. “If folks are on a need-based grant, need-based grants will go up next year so that there’s no gap.”
Burson also emphasized that the Board of Trustees and members of the senior staff are committed to keeping Kenyon affordable, and that they will try to limit future tuition increases. “The big thing for us is Kenyon is not for profit, we’re not looking to make a lot of money off students,” he said. “So when we build these budgets, it’s about how do we break even — that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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"Burson also said that all employees will receive a 4% raise next year" - does this mean all employees, including student workers?
Reply to Brookie Wilkens
Sally Smith '23
Brookie Wilkensexcellent question, I was wondering the same
Reply to Sally Smith '23
Duke of Danville
You know this is partially due to all those new support offices and departments you students clamor for, right?
Reply to Duke of Danville
Khagan of Coschocton
Duke of DanvillePlease stop whining under every article.
Reply to Khagan of Coschocton
Duke of DanvilleWhat is your evidence for this?
Reply to '22
Plebian of Peoria
Duke of DanvilleSo, what I'm gonna need you to do is 1. Step away from your computer, 2. Walk outside, and 3. Touch Grass
Reply to Plebian of Peoria
Peter Dickson Class of 1969
The official sticker price does not include such expenses as books, a few other fees and transportation. Discounting the tuition fee is the primary form of financial assistance with Kenyon paying for that discount by drawing on its own financial assets. Kenyon's role as a lender of money is very limited, it offers some free money via scholarships, grants. It is said often that a graduation time the average student debt amount is something like $25,000 which does not seem credible but it can be because a lot of students are full-payers and that evidently pulls down the average figure for everyone. What percentage of students are full-payers? Are early deciders largely full-payers? Possibly even likely. I was once told that close to half the students have to be full-payers or "Kenyon goes out of business". Kenyon is heavily dependent on student tuition for its annual operating budget. 10-15 years ago the dependency was in the 65 percent range of all incoming revenue, but recently there have been comments that it is more like 80 percent or more. How to explain that? Well it may mean that full-payers now are more than half the student body, perhaps a lot more than previously Kenyon is heavily invested in what are known as Alternative Investments. Kenyon's financial managers Cornerstone Partners has 90 percent of Kenyon's financial assets (what is inside and outside the endowment) in Alternative Investments which is money in Hedge and Equity Funds, real estate, commodities as so forth which was less liquid that cash or stocks which can be sold quickly. The returns last year were staggering via AI but that was a boom in the stock market. In any case, while Kenyon's financial assets have soared, the bulk seems to be in less liquid assets which would seem to mean the need for a stronger immediate cash flow via full-payers. As for full-payers one year at Kenyon would be close to 85K especially if the transportation costs are high for flights for those West coasters. Full-payers in the Class of 2025 will upon graduation will have invested circa 350K in a Kenyon degree because each year going forward colleges find it hard to keep annual price increases below 4 percent. Kenyon will never really "Look Like the Real America". Its student body can represent the cultural-ethno diversity of wealthy American families -- a phony diversity but at least diversity which has become an obsessive end-in-itself.
Reply to Peter Dickson Class of 1969
Peter Dickson Class of 1969Mr. Dickson,
I encourage you to pull together into a letter to the editor some of your insights in regards to Kenyon's financial situation. As a soon to be alum, I am concerned that such a large portion of Kenyon's assets are illiquid, that we rely so heavily on tuition, that it does not seem Kenyon truly invests in its student body, etc. You explained it quite well and the rest of the community should hear about these things. Your insights will get more attention in a published letter to the editor.
Concerned future alum
Reply to '22
'22I used to work at Kenyon and saw financials that were shared with alumni committees and volunteers. Kenyon has always been tuition dependent and it does not appear that the last decade has seen that increase significantly. A quick Google search will show that college publications put the figure at roughly 75% in 2010-11.
The reason Kenyon is tuition dependent is because our endowment over time has been quite small compared to peer institutions. I don't agree with many decisions the College has made over the years, but a long term strategy to pay out 5-7% of the endowment to support the operating budget is reasonable and matches industry standards. The suggestion that the endowment should be converted to a significant portion of liquid assets such as all stocks or bizarrely cash (which earn no return on investments) would leave massive exposure to a financial meltdown. Additionally altering the endowment disbursement ratio from year to year (say 5% one year to 10% the next) would be ill advised and a damning indictment of the College's ability to plan for the long term.
Additionally it worth asking the question: is it bad that the topline price has increased? Because of tuition discounting, only those who can afford it will likely have to pay that top rate. According to the NYT Upshot, half of the Kenyon student body comes from the top 5% of households based on family income. If the current student body is focused on equity and fairness, the tuition increases allow the College to charge more from those who can afford it (in theory) to subsidize those who cannot afford it.
Reply to '08 Alum
'08 AlumThe key is that investment in AI -- predominantly in hedge and equity funds -- is far less liquid and it involves extra fees and also they invest in stocks also. They promise better returns but do not always deliver. Kenyon via discounting subsidizes for non-full payers, that is what makes a non-full payer a non-full payer. Financial assitence now counts for 30 percent of the annual budget is 50 percent higher than 15 years ago. Interest on the 270 million in borrowed money is not included in the annual budget. Will Kenyon borrow more for the new dorms including the creation of two quads where the freshman dorms and Watson are now?
Reply to Peter Dickson
Peter DicksonGood sir,
I fail to see how an equity fund is not liquid, as they are based by definition in stocks. I do not see a problem that Kenyon is paying more in financial aid compared to 15 years ago. It means that they want a more socioeconomic diverse student body, which they have a long way to go toward because of poor past endowment decisions and the lack of huge alumni donors (outside the Gund family, whole different subthread there). I dont not know where your figure on 270 million borrowed comes from, but I cannot reconcile it with financial statements from the college (they have to report them to the IRS).
And generally Kenyon does not borrow massive amounts of money. In the last twenty years, large capital projects are only initiated once a majority of funds are obtained by a donation.
I also lived in the quad they want to replace. they need to be replaced. There is a looming demographic crunch and Kenyon needs better facilities to compete.
Reply to Ryan Stewart
Ryan StewartI am sorry to have to inform you but you are dead wrong about the 270 million in debt upon which for a long long time was paying between 4 and 5 percent and still is on some of its outstanding revenue bonds. All the annual financial audits of the college since the late 1990s are available on line. The 270 million figure has been openly acknowledged in the Collegian more than once. I used those records to calculate the total investment up to and through the West Quad project beginning with the Storer Hall including all interest paid and still to be paid on the outstanding bonds which mature in the mid-2040s -- the figure is as I recall 942 Million. I posted a long article on this which you can read as it was an Opinion item on the Collgiran wed site.
Reply to Peter Dickson
The cultural and social divide between students who are able to pay full tuition and those who are not, and thus take out loans, work jobs, and earn scholarships to make our way through Kenyon, are increasingly noticeable and distressing. It is clear that Kenyon will always care more about appearances, that is, fancy facilities and supposed "diversity," than in making sure students and employees are treated well and are able to remain at Kenyon. Dropping retention rates and the poor overall socioeconomic advancement of graduates who did not arrive at Kenyon armed with trust funds and familial connections evidence this as well. At Kenyon, I have felt belittled, ignored, and mistreated by administrators who seem unable to fathom that many of us cannot remain at this ridiculously expensive institution without working and who refuse to cede any control over the conditions of that necessary work to students or to grant us even the dignity and respect of an election for union recognition. Though, these administrators make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, so perhaps it can be understood why they do not relate to or care about the experiences of those who do not and for whom $80k is an insurmountable cost. To alumni: let me be clear, your positive experience here, dear as it may be to you, is no longer reality for the majority of students who do not pay full tuition. To prospective students, think twice about whether you want to sign yourself up for a lifetime of loans in exchange for the disregard of an institution that will never know or care about you, despite their claims that this is a community. Any community at Kenyon is fostered solely by students, professors, and some staff and outside community-members, but increasingly those efforts and the truly special environment they may have once created, are undermined by the greed and ineptitude of a bloated administration intent on not listening to those it is meant to serve. I did not come to Kenyon as angry as I am now.
Reply to Senior
SeniorI do not mean to take away from your feelings, as I as well left Kenyon angry and indebted. I worked a student job, I took on debt (should this not be an expected?) I passed on places that offered me more money because Kenyon was a better school. That was my choice.
I am honestly wondering what the expectation is now? That you should not have any student debt? (admirable, and something I want, but not a feature of the American higher ed system, so not unique to Kenyon).
Wages for senior admins are fair game, although I would tell you that your assistant directors arent making bank. And if the current student body is willing to shed assistant directors of weight training, diversity, greek life, and counseling center support, then costs will be lower. But is that the Kenyon you want?
I sympathize with the pain of being indebted. But the question I would ask current students is, is what would you like to cut? What is driving price increases are things like co-assistant director of student life for greek life, and asking for full mental health care (from a college, who economically speaking should avoid with a ten foot pole because they are not health care providers). If you want to be socially accountably and fair, then you should be okay that Kenyon has to fill that role and make students pay for it. Knox County will not.
Reply to '08 Alum
'08 AlumI'd be content with them not spending hundreds of millions of dollars on infrastructure projects that no one asked for (the "anonymous" donations from Gund never cover these projects as they always go over budget) and instead focusing on areas that do require concern. The fact is we DON'T have adequate mental health services. So where is the money going? To fund fancy buildings (which, by the way, have a disappointing lack of character in contrast to some like the academic houses that will be discontinued next year!) and to hire administrators and sub-administrators for every possible division. I simply don't believe every single one of those positions is crucial to a positive experience at Kenyon. Administrative bloat is not unique to Kenyon nor is it often correlated with happier students or a better campus environment. I never said I expected to graduate without debt, but instead that tuition has risen so much, while student wages have increased only along with state minimum wage/inflation requirements, that workers have to take on more hours to cover that gap than expected AND on top of that, the culture the administration is fostering with their rhetoric about the union is one that does not support or value the labor that student workers do but instead actively diminishes it. This is thus a financial burden and a true emotional toll -- that is, the college I must work very hard to attend seems insistent on reminding me at every opportunity that they do not consider the work I do valuable or essential to campus operations (a blatant lie), nor do they consider me capable of recognizing my own need for better working conditions or utilizing my legal rights to organize for such. It's demeaning, and maybe this school has just gotten too expensive for the insulting attitude of the administration to be outweighed by the positive experience cultivated by the professors and community. Also, and Kenyon has almost definitely changed since you attended, so I don't fault you for this, but given the state of student mental health on campus, a "co-assistant director of greek life" and a functional counseling center are nowhere near equivalent in importance or necessity. I would gladly sacrifice the former.
Reply to Senior
I don't think I would have enjoyed Kenyon at that price point.
If college is going to cost $400,000 total, why not just skip college and buy your kid a pretty damn nice house in an up and coming city. At some point, one has to ask, what is the point of all of this, what is the objective of life (broadly speaking) and is this a good investment.
In 15 years that 400,000 house will be damn near double that if not more.
Buy the house now! Lord knows we aren't building them anymore. And builders should raise their rates too because I am pretty sure at these prices, there won't be a single tool on any college campus in the United States by the time this is over.
Reply to Kenyon Alum
Concerned Alum 2000
Please see Georgetown's recently published breakdown and extensive study regarding ROI for 4,500 US Colleges and Universities. Search for Kenyon and see how the college stacks up to the competition.
Students: don't forget you ALWAYS have options. We're rooting for you!!!
Reply to Concerned Alum 2000