by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
“It was the hike that was necessary to ensure that we continue to provide a quality educational experience to all our students,” said college president Steve Solnick.
According to Solnick, the increase in tuition was decided upon only after careful consideration, and a close look at the school’s sources of revenue.
“We’re not a community where there’s a lot of fat to cut in the budget,” Solnick said.
Warren Wilson tuition has been steadily rising every year, but this year, the administration is trying something different. When the Board of Trustees approved next year’s tuition during their meeting in October, they also voted to allocate more financial aid to continuing students, to “cushion some of the blow” of the increase in tuition, according to Solnick.
“That’s the first time in quite a while that that’s been done,” said Jonathan Ehrlich, Vice President for Administration and Finance. “Up until this year the aid the continuing students received pretty much stayed unchanged from when they came in. If their circumstances warrant it, based on the FASFA, they will be able to receive more.”
Several factors contribute to the rising costs of education at Warren Wilson, according to Ehrlich. The college is heavily dependent on tuition, which makes up around 85% of the costs of educating a student here. The rest comes from other revenues like fundraising, and our endowment, which is around $60 million, a relatively small sum compared to other schools. Berea College, another work college, has an endowment of around $1 billion.
“I would expect Warren Wilson tuition will keep increasing until we have an endowment large enough that can control more of the costs of operating the school,” Ehrlich said.
Our endowment has been steadily increasing over the last decade and so, too, has our student body, which has more than doubled since the 1980s. This year, however, the college has experienced a dip in enrollment, which can also influence tuition.
“A small change in enrollment has a very large impact on the budget,” Ehrlich said. “If enrollment were higher, then there would be less pressure to increase tuition.”
Rising costs is a trend that almost every liberal arts college in the country is currently struggling with. According to a report published by Bloomberg last year, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120% since 1978.
Several factors impact tuition, here and elsewhere, that are out of colleges’ hands entirely, like health insurance, property insurance, and utilities, which rise in cost almost every year. The hike in tuition will account for these growing expenses, in addition to other spending, like the modest salary increase for employees for next year.
“In any college where you are tuition dependent and certain costs increase annually, you have to increase tuition,” Ehrlich said. “Our goal is to increase it at the lowest level possible.”