By Brooke Schultz
Tuition will increase 5 percent for the next academic year, with room and board increasing 3 and 2 percent, respectively, according to President Kurt Landgraf.
This change comes after former President Sheila Bair rolled out her student debt initiative, Fixedfor4, last December. At the start of this academic year, tuition was increased by 2 percent to $43,702 to “cover the transitional cost of the program,” said a press release on the College’s website from Dec. 9, 2016.
That rate is fixed for all current students. The 5 percent increase applies only to the incoming class of 2022 and transfer students.
Educational fees for the 2018-19 academic year total $59,196, with $45,888 for tuition, $1,118 for mandatory student fees, $5,776 for cost of a standard dormitory, and $6,414 for a standard meal plan, according to the Admissions web page.
“When you have a program where you fix your tuition, the costs don’t go away, you’re just capping your revenue potential,” said Landgraf in an interview last week. “Let’s recognize when you do something like that, you have to get revenue from somewhere. You have discounts, tuition scholarships — you still have to have revenue to exist.”
Landgraf said he does want to honor the financial programs — such as Dam the Debt, George’s Brigade, and Saver’s Scholarship — Bair put into place during her term, but said he may alter and reduce some of them.
Landgraf said that Bair’s fundamental idea is important for the College to consider.
“She was recognizing that student debt was becoming a handicap for people when they come to a college like ours,” he said. However, Landgraf noted the College has “to be honest with ourselves.”
“We need a certain amount of revenue here. You still have to invest in your buildings; you can’t have dormitories without hot water. You have to have money to do that. Let’s stop kidding ourselves,” he said.
Landgraf said that the College finds itself in the same situation as many other liberal arts schools. Some of those institutions are “resetting” tuition. Meaning that, instead of having tuition set at a certain price — $60,000, for example, but giving away $30,000 a year in scholarships — colleges are changing their tuition to $30,000 and are not giving as many scholarships. He noted Sweet Briar College as an example.
Washington College, Landgraf said, is a slightly different case due to the “financial incentive programs” that have been established here.
“The way for us to make this College sustainable is raise the revenue by highlighting the value that WC offers to prospective students. And that’s the work we’re doing now, to figure out the best way to do that, working with enrollment, so that we can go out and tell students who want to come here that, yes, we do have very good financial incentives here, but we also offer tremendous assets here,” he said. “That’s what is called a value proposition.”
This change ties into Landgraf’s goal of sustainability for the College.
“The way you make any college or any institution sustainable is by having a revenue base that allows you to invest in what’s important,” he said.
For WC, Landgraf said, Rolando Irizarry, vice president of College Relations and Marketing, is leading the Value Proposition Taskforce that will find a way to communicate to the “external world” — potential students, parents of potential students, communities at large — what is offered at the College.
“It’s important to understand that our students are well-prepared for life after college,” Landgraf said.
He also mentioned the College’s discount rate — what students actually pay, compared to the “list price” of the College — and WC’s enrollment.
This year’s incoming class has a discount rate near 60 percent, with enrollment down from last year.
“We have a goal, hopefully, we’d like to have about 1,700 students,” he said. “If we can start moving back to that 1,700 students as opposed to the about 1,500 we have now, that’s very sustainable. That’s a good size. That’s what I mean by sustainability. I want the place to be here for 200 more years. The best way to do that is reinvest in the College and be honest about where we are.”