Higher education tuition… good news from Middlebury College

Middlebury College: CPI + 1% = revolutionary tuition increase policy

Middlebury College is a remarkable place. And the president, Ronald Liebowitz, is a remarkable president.

I’ve never been to Middlebury and I’ve never met the president. (Although I did select the Middlebury website as a Link of the Week pick back on April 24 2009 for “frank talk on the financial crisis” by the president.)

The news broke in public this week that Middlebury has adopted an new, almost revolutionary tuition increase plan: tuition and other fees will rise no more than 1 percent above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), now and in the future.

The president addressed this and other financial issues on February 12 in a “Public Address on College Finances.” You really do have to read his frank, realistic admission that the ways of the past 10 to 20 years (rising endowments, easy credit, and routine tuition increases sometimes as much as 4 percent above consumer inflation) are dead. From 1996 to 2008, FTE employment at Middlebury rose by 584 to 1,000 people, an increase of 72 percent as facilities, academic programs, and enrollment grew. The new target: 850.

The era of empire building is over in higher education. In many areas, Middlebury College will shrink. And it will be a better place for the early adoption of realistic plans to shape that shrinkage.

The change in tuition pricing is significant.

Private sector colleges and universities have used an “education price index” to justify raising tuition and fees far more than the CPI and the annual income of most American families. But not to worry: easy credit and a willingess to incur debt through low-cost loan programs combined with steep tuition discounting to shore up private sector enrollments.

Higher education had its own version of the housing bubble.

Tuition and fees increase: 1% above CPI

Liebowitz reminds us that Middlebury began to make severe financial changes in the summer of 2008. Today the college is projecting a reduced but balanced budget through 2015 with an FTE of 850 people supporting a slightly larger enrollment of about 2,400 students.

Today, the future of Middlebury is different but bright.

Read the entire presentation for a complete picture of the change underway.

See if you don’t agree that Middlebury is indeed a remarkable place.

Public opinion poll: 60% of Americans don’t trust colleges and universities

If other colleges and universities (public and private) adopt similar policies of fiscal restraint, public opinion might become more favorable than it is now. If you think that public opinion isn’t a problem, read the new public opinion poll results just released: 60 percent of Americans believe that colleges and universities are “focused more on the bottom line than on the educational experience of students.”

That’s all for now 




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