Update for December 2012

Wesleyan 2020 Update, Fall 2012

About a year has passed since I sent out an update concerning our work implementing the strategic initiatives described in Wesleyan 2020, a framework for planning passed by the Board of Trustees more than two years ago.  We have been using this framework to organize our thinking about the future, allocate resources and assess our performance. Wesleyan 2020 emphasizes three overarching goals: to energize Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience; to enhance recognition of Wesleyan as an extraordinary institution; and to work within a sustainable economic model while retaining core values. With this update, framed by these goals, I will mention some of the things we have been doing in the effort to provide “an education in the liberal arts that is characterized by boldness, rigor and practical idealism.” Given the changes made to our economic model in the past year, the third section is the longest of this update. (These changes have spurred intense discussions in the Wesleyan community, especially with regards to need-blind admissions, and for more on those discussions, see Financial Aid, Now More Than Ever!)

Energize Wesleyan’s Distinctive Educational Experience

I’ve been very impressed by the faculty’s consistent efforts to build on our academic strengths to refine and refresh the curriculum. In the Arts, we have been planning to add spaces for studio and performance work so that we can meet the strong student demand in these areas. The Humanities are thriving at Wesleyan, as our scholar-teachers continue to attract talented students while also shaping their own fields. The College of Letters and the Art History Department have moved into the center of campus (in the old squash building), and both programs have been energized by the new location. The Social Sciences at the university are home to vibrant interdisciplinary explorations that employ sophisticated quantitative skills, deep fieldwork and sensitive interpretative perspectives – from religion to economics. The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life has been an important locus for research and practice that bear upon society and politics. And the Sciences and Mathematics continue to see increased enrollments and path-breaking research.

The university has added financial resources so that students can work in the summer as research associates with Wesleyan faculty, and we have continued to support additional small classes. Our pilot faculty fellows program  – enlisting professors to work closely with particular residence halls – has been successful, and we expect to be expanding it further in the coming year. Interdisciplinary work is thriving at Wesleyan, and the Center for the Humanities and the Allbritton Center have received significant donor support.  We are building a substantial endowment for the College of the Environment, founded in 2009, and faculty are developing proposals for at least three new colleges that would give students fascinating new options for collaborative, interdisciplinary work.

Residential schools depend on environments conducive to learning. Excessive drinking is corrosive to these environments, and over the last year we have been participating in a research collaborative with other colleges seeking nation-wide solutions to this problem.  We have also been working closely with our students to understand how best to support the honor code, which expresses core institutional values.

We have had a strong focus this year on improving our performance as an engaged university. The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship has generated considerable enthusiasm from alumni and students, and  an impressive variety of organizations is ready to tap into our programing in this field. Thanks to the support of our alumni base, we were able to add dozens of high-quality internships to our  portfolio of options for Wesleyan students. As our campus has grown more diverse in recent years, there have also been renewed tensions along racial, ethnic and class lines. Our ongoing program Making Excellence Inclusive is meant to address those tensions while building a more effective culture of learning for all students.  In my next 2020 update I expect to report on real progress in this area.

Certainly a highlight for this year was the opening of 41 Wyllys, the new home of the Career Center, the College of Letters and Art History. The students and faculty have embraced the new facility, which has mightily contributed to the vitalization of the core of campus.  From Exley to Allbritton and PAC to Usdan to the Art Center and Film Studies – this north-south axis in the heart of campus is full of life, of purpose and of increased possibilities of happy, serendipitous encounters.

Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience has never been static, and it continues to change today. Faculty have designed a new first-year seminar program that emphasizes writing, and we have had productive discussions about how we can use online materials in lecture classes so as to free up time for close faculty-student interactions.  This fall we became the first liberal arts college to partner with Coursera, an online company that is reaching millions of students around the world through open lecture courses. Although the Wes courses are still in preparation, tens of thousands from around the world have already signed up to take them. I expect we’ll learn much from offering these classes.

Enhance Recognition of Wesleyan as an Extraordinary Institution

The Coursera partnership is a good transition to the topic of enhancing recognition of the university. It is important that we make the accomplishments of our alumni, students and staff more visible through a variety of channels, including social media. It has been yet another gratifying  year for the Wesleyan Film program, with a number of films by Wes alumni (including The Avengers and Beasts of the Southern Wild ) gaining commercial and critical success. On campus, faculty have been awarded Guggenheims and a Pulitzer and been nominated for National Book awards, and students have garnered Watsons and a Marshall (to name just two of the many high-profile scholarships that have recently gone to graduates).

Engagement with alumni has ramped up in person and online. Wesconnect is becoming an increasingly popular way for alumni to connect with one another, especially when they are preparing for some university event. I am particularly struck by the potential of Wesconnect to offer  alumni ways to engage with the curriculum, and we expect to be able to do more in this regard through Coursera and other online initiatives. Attendance at Homecoming and Reunions has been strong, and the enthusiastic support of alumni and parents has been greatly encouraging.

One of the best measures of positive recognition of the university is the strength of interest from highly qualified students who want access to a Wesleyan education. In our Admissions work over the last year, we focused on overall application growth, with particular attention to geographical areas in which we are not as well known as we would like to be: as close as Florida and Pennsylvania, as far away as China and India. We had a record number of applications overall, and achieved the best selectivity rate in the history of the university. We are building on this in the current semester and are encouraged by the record number of early decision applications.

Sustainable Economic Model and Core Values

In the past year we have made significant changes to our economic model. For decades we have followed the same pattern: tuition increases well above inflation, and financial aid increases that go far beyond that. This budget model isn’t sustainable. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of the tuition charges that goes to financial aid has risen steadily. In the past, Wesleyan dealt with this issue by raising loan requirements (replacing grants with loans), and by taking more money out of the endowment (or just spending gifts rather than directing them to the endowment). For the long-term health of the institution this had to change.

One way to become more economically sustainable is to cut costs, and we have substantially reduced expenses without undermining the academic core of the institution. In my first year as president in 2007-2008, we canceled almost $200 million in planned capital expenditures. We also made difficult decisions that resulted in $30 million in annual budget savings and increased revenues. We have improved energy efficiency and re-negotiated our health insurance coverage.  We have also reduced our exposure to increases in our debt service costs while developing a program to begin repaying some of the debt the university incurred in the 1990s.

But in recent years we have also introduced measures that increase pressure on the operating budget. We reduced loans for most students by about a third and began placing a much higher percentage of the money raised  each year into the endowment. Our endowment per student is well below that of most of our peer schools, and it is vital to build Wesleyan’s economic foundation. In this regard, we have put together a great new investment team to grow the endowment.  At the same time that we secure our future, it is also necessary to have funds to run a great university right now, and to do that without raising tuition to unaffordable levels.  This year I have proposed a plan to trustees and the campus with three new components to make Wesleyan more affordable in ways that can be sustained. The first is to establish a “discount rate” that is as generous as possible, but that is also one we can afford. The discount rate refers to the amount of tuition the university does NOT collect, and it is the key measure for financial aid. For Wesleyan this means just under a third of our tuition charges will go to financial aid. This is approximately the percentage of the budget devoted to aid from 2000–2008.

We remain committed to meeting the full financial need of the students we enroll, and to do so without burdening them with excessive debt.  This will mean that we will have to consider the capacity of some students to pay, as we do now with transfer and international students. We will read all applications without regard for the ability to pay, and we will be need-blind for as many students as possible. Currently we project this to be about 90% of each class (depending on the level of need). We could have retained the label “need blind” by raising loan levels or shrinking grant packages – but this is the wrong thing to do. We feel it is crucial for the education of all our students to meet the full need of those who are enrolled without increasing their debt. As we raise more funds for the endowment, we will be able to sustain a more generous financial aid program.

The second component of our affordability effort will be linking our tuition increases to the rate of inflation. This is a dramatic change; we have already moved into the realm of the country’s most expensive colleges, and this is not a list on which we want to remain. Restraining tuition increases will require us to maintain our search for efficiencies while continuing to invest in excellence and innovation across the curriculum.

The third component is to emphasize a three-year option for those families seeking a Wesleyan experience in a more economical form. We will help those students who choose to graduate in six semesters get the most out of their time on campus. The three-year option isn’t for everyone, but for those students who are prepared to develop their majors a little sooner, shorten their vacations by participating in our intensive Summer Sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical BA might be of genuine interest.  Allowing for some summer expenses, families would still save about 20% from the total bill for an undergraduate degree.

Obviously, I would prefer that Wesleyan had the endowment per student that would allow us to issue a blank check for financial aid. We do not. The actions we have taken will preserve access to Wesleyan for capable, creative students while preserving the essential qualities (great faculty, diverse community, excellent facilities) that these students want. While we cannot afford to be “need-blind” for all students, we can afford to maintain our core value of having a diverse student body. We are justly proud that so many who are so talented want to be part of the Wesleyan educational experience. With thoughtful planning, which will involve continued discussions with students, faculty and alumni, we can ensure that this remains the case for generations to come.

Some further thoughts

Each year I marvel at the generosity of our alumni and parent donors. They often tell me to “put this gift where you need it the most, where it will do the most good.” They trust alma mater to do what’s right by our students. In our current fundraising efforts, financial aid is our highest priority, and our donors have responded with enthusiasm and generosity. The past year of gifts and pledges was one of the best in the university’s history. Wesleyan, we have been told, inspires “loyalty beyond reason.” I like that phrase, because it reminds us that it isn’t just the classes; it isn’t just the organized activities on campus, or the parties or the concerts; it isn’t just the sports or the art, the career networking or the beauty of Foss Hill in the fall light. The loyalty stems from all these things and more. Loyalty to Wes has its reasons, but it is also beyond reason; the affectionate connection is beyond reason, extending long beyond those semesters in residence.

Every fall I meet new students and ask them how they found their way to Wesleyan. Recently a student from Louisiana told me that she found out about Wes through Questbridge, which links high-achieving low income students to select colleges, and, as she emotionally related, “I never thought you’d match with me.” A mom from rural California came up to me on Arrival Day and said that she’d never been east of the Rockies and with tears in her eyes expressed gratitude for her daughter’s scholarship.  Her daughter was being given, she explained, “the opportunity of a lifetime.” I also met students whose parents both went to Wesleyan and who are here to continue a family legacy that is an honor and a vital new beginning. These students have heard for years about great moments in classrooms, studios, labs, and on the athletic fields …and now they aim to make their own mark on our traditions of exuberant excellence.

Students may choose Wesleyan for a thousand different reasons, but they know they are choosing a progressive, pragmatic liberal arts institution that is steeped in tradition and pointed to the future. They know they are choosing a campus culture that is as collaborative as it is challenging, one that produces work at the highest level even as it nurtures idealism. After all, that’s why we all continue to choose Wesleyan. A thousand different reasons – and beyond reason.

Michael S. Roth

10 thoughts on “Update for December 2012”

  1. I am very interested to read the continuing debate about ‘need blind’ admission. I am a Wesleyan grad, the son of a Wesleyan graduate, and the father of one, Benjamin Fels. I am a working artist. When Benjamin applied to schools, he was accepted at all, but chose Wesleyan. We applied for a scholarship, but were told that because we owned property (which of course then had inflated value), though our income was well within the ‘need’ category, we couldn’t get scholarship help. Benjamin did win several merit grants during his time at the school, but we paid his way.

    I came to campus for my 35th reunion, where I was a featured speaker. This visit coincided with Benjamin’s second year on campus, and I made an appt with the financial aid office. I was again told the same story, that because Wesleyan used the federal form for determing need, and because the form showed we owned property of a certain value, we were not eligible. I explained again that we were two self-employed individuals in the arts, that we had no pension, no 501-K, that our property was our only hedge against the future. I asked if I were employed by a corporation with a large 501K plan, if I would have to report that pension as net worth on the form. No, I was told. Then, I asked does it not seem reasonable, or fair, that our property should be treated the in the same way, as investment for our ‘golden years’, not as net worth. “Sorry” they said.

    In effect we were being penalized because we lived outside the corporate structure. It angered Benjamin that many of his friends at Wesleyan, whose parents yearly earnings were far greater than those of his, were on scholarship. Neither he nor I have given to the university since his graduation. Wesleyan was in my will, it is no longer.

    If Wesleyan is serious about reforming its financial aid, it will have to address the issue of how it determines net worth. I was blessed by a Wesleyan education, it prepared me well for my life as a visual artist. I have lived by my wits for decades now. I am grateful for what I learned in Middletown. But I was dismayed that the university could not see that someone like myself, a product of a Wesleyan mindset, would do things differently- that my wife and I would have to create a financial structure that reflected the way we live, and that the structure did not mean we were independently wealthy. Wesleyan encourages critical thinking, but it could not think critically about the strictures that governed financial aid at the university. The need determination process was blind, even if need wasn’t. If Wesleyan wants to attract truly ‘middle class’ kids, it will need to find ways to help them financially. Otherwise the biggest risk, which I am sure you know, is that the university will not just be an elite university, but a place only for elitists.

    Don Fels ’68

  2. Michael:
    I am a graudate of Wesleyan, class of 1970. I have recently had three children go through private liberal arts colleges (one is still in school) and have been absolutely stunned at what this has cost our family. So I very much appreciate your efforts to address the cost of attending Wesleyan in your strategic planning. Capping the tuition increases so as not to exceed the rise in the COL is a good start, among other things.

    In our case, as my wife is a physician, our combined family income resulted in our getting NO need based financial aid unless we had two kids in private colleges at the same time. The need based formulas calculated that our family contribution could be as much as $70,000 per year for college tuition. Given that our total after tax family income was about $225,000 annually, there was simply no way we could afford $70,000 per year for so many years running. Who has that kind of money left over after all other household expenses get paid?

    We also didn’t want to burden ourselves or our children with excessive debt such that they could not consider lower paying but socially meaningful occupations (one of our kids is a high school math teacher, one a social worker).

    As a result, we could not consider Wesleyan as an option for our three kids, despite it being a great school and my alma matter. As you noted in above Wesleyan is now one of the MOST expensive schools in the nation – I beileve all costs combined now exceed $55,000/yr. We decided our kids would have to apply to liberal arts colleges that offered merit scholarship (which they were able to get) so we could get some help with the cost. (Something Wesleyan might consider).

    My hope would be that Wesleyan could be one of those schools leading the way towards REDUCING the cost of a great small college education. I know Wesleyan does it’s best to meet the demonstrated financial need, but for families like ours, this just doesn’t pencil out. It seems that only the lower income applicant or the wealthy appllicant can consider Wesleyan.

    I sometimes wonder what might happen if Wesleyan announced this year that the tuition at Wesleyan was being reduced! Think of the buzz this would create nationwide, and the good PR it would generate for the school. Our current President often speaks about this — perhaps he’d mention Wesleyan as a postive example of progress in this area?

    As I live in Oregon, I don’t often get back to Wesleyan or have much contact with the school or current students, but I send my best and congratulate you on your efforts to make the Wesleyan experience more affordable.

    And a final comment on your update above. I was at Wesleyan in a tumultuous time for the school and for the nation. In 1970, we had the Kent State shootings, and massive anti war protests nationwide. Wesleyan was on strike for the last month before we graduated, and our graduation speaker was David Dellinger, one of the Chicago Eight. We wore black armbands rather than black robes at graduation. During that period, Wesleyan had a unique identity that separated it from schools like Williams and Amherst. We were the school known for students with a social conscience, students who were willing to challenge the status quo.

    I’m not sure this is true anymore, or that the school would wants it to be so. But I do think Wesleyan needs to figure this out, in order to make the case that it is different and unique. What makes Wesleyan a better choice than Williams, Amherst, Pomona, Swarthmore and Carleton (where my son went) which all rank higher in the various school rankings (even though you may question how they come up with their rankings).

    What is Wesleyan’s unique identity today? Is it still a place where students come who are bright but also want to change the world for the better? And if so, how do you communicate that message to potential applicants? I don’t sense it anywhere in the literature the schools sends out or the four color glossy brochures. Perhaps it’s no longer a core value?

    Well, enough said. Good luck with it all.

  3. As a journalist who has specialized in writing about economic issue for decades, I want to say how impressed I am by your forthright comments and decisions regarding the extremely high cost of selective colleges and the fact that the financial model that has been in use for years is no longer sustainable. In the late 1980s, my son went to Amherst where the then president Peter Pouncy said at our first parents weekend that tuition would not rise faster than inflation. The following fall he didn’t wait to be asked why that promise had been blown out of the water. He blithely told us, “I lied.” That was painful because we were in that uncomfortable position of having too much income to qualify for aid but not nearly enough for the payments not to be a serious burden. And in real terms, today’s tuition levels are far, far higher. At Wesleyan I had essentially a full scholarship and I have always felt an obligation to contribute to the school. What you are doing only encourages me to continue to do so, and I am sure most other alumni will feel the same way. Good luck.

  4. Need-blind admissions, in my view, was one of the key factors which made Wesleyan unique by contributing to the diversity of the student body, including economically. Ratcheting down the scope of need-blind admissions will no doubt change the unique character of the university.

    I will support any movement to change this new policy, including urging all alumni to stop giving altogether.

    Reconsider this policy. Reconsider man-handling students who chalk sidewalks.

    What the hell has happened to the leadership of the University?

  5. Dear President Roth and Members of the Board of Trustees:
    Thank you for carefully considering and clearly articulating your vision for Wesleyan. The replies of the three excellent gradates of Wesleyan who responded in time for me to read their thoughts are of a quality in which Wesleyan can take pride. I did not graduate from Wesleyan, so I have a different perspective. Neither of my parents had “Eastern College” degrees. Each felt that they would have been more highly regarded in our midwest city if they had been offered the more expensive education. I suspect that they hoped that having their children attend more prestigious universities would shine a brighter light on them as parents.

    Two Wesleyan graduates lived across the street from our home. The Principal of my high school was a Wesleyan graduate. Dad could “afford” to pay full costs for my Wesleyan education. He picked my major for me. He felt my learning disabilities were a result of my mother’s failure to discipline me adequately. I found fellow students at Wesleyan who were astonishingly more prepared than I. Yet I found many of them who treated me with greater respect than I had previously found available. The cultural offerings at Wesleyan were astonishingly richer than in my prior experience. I enjoyed Wesleyan for 2.5 years. I was carrying a C+. Dad called Dean Spaeth, as he regularly did. Dad was not told of my meteoric rise, because I had not risen. Dad withdrew my funding, so I returned to my midwest home, went to Summer School, and subsequently graduated with a “Straight A” record, but not the same admiration for my fellow students that I had at Wesleyan. The midwest university had “never heard of the Humanities” and there was no Honor System.

    I went to Alumni events for both Wesleyan and the midwest university, but found Wesleyan’s stimulating and the other events cloying. I decided that Wesleyan had prepared me for Life, whereas the midwest university had prepared me for my career. I honor each with my contributions, but for me, Life trumps career. Perhaps there is another me coming from a family like mine. I want Wesleyan to be what it
    is and what it was when I was there. I get back to Wesleyan often enough now that I am convinced it is still just as special for its current students as it was for me. I believe you are on the right track to keep it the best it can be. Thank you.

  6. Dear President Roth: I believe that my educational experience at Wesleyan in the late ’50’s was, perhaps, the best education that this country provided. I often tell the story how Prof. Shorske used ideas from one of my classmates to deliver a major speech at the college where I taught (Cornell College). I distinctly remember the sense of cohesiveness on campus. Everone seemed to know what everyone’s research or creative work was about–faculty and students.

    I know that the campus is not nearly as small as it was “back in the day”, but I hope that such a sense of shared intellectual involvement is still present.

    Another concern of mine is about graduation requirements. Even as good as your student advising might be, I’m not convinced (based on my years of teaching) that undergraduates are intellectually mature enough to make all of their decisions on their own or–at best– with a facujlty advisor–on an ad hoc basis.

    At least if one is going to have a degree which deviates from the traditional B.A., then at least Wesleyan should call it something else ( e.g., a Bachelor of Special Studies–as we do at Cornell).

  7. All the previous comments sent in by various former Wesleyan students, share some of the same, vaguely depressing feelings I have about the costs of tuition for future students. I am in that same difficult situation, where on paper, my husband and I seem to be fine, before taxes, but the reality, is that coming up with 55K per year for tuition is impossible. We are just under President Obama’s 250K cut-off, however, the taxes in Connecticut, chop off a large chunk of our income every year. We also, work in the creative sphere, with no sizable inheritances waiting for us in our “golden years.”

    Fortunately, our 3 sons (first one off to college, next September,) are primarily interested in engineering, so they have many choices. We must view all the schools they have been interested in, through the lens of what kind of merit scholarships they can get, athletic scholarships, etc. Wesleyan would just be far too expensive, and, since it doesn’t offer engineering on campus, it was written off the list early on.

    It worries me that Wesleyan will become a university for the very wealthy, and, a somewhat smaller proportion of low income students. The vast upper middle-income (roughly, 130K-250K) students just will not be able to afford to take a chance on any of the prestigious, most-selective schools, since the FAFSA pretty much determines that they will not get adequate financial aid at all. And, academic grants are harder to get at the most selective schools, since most of the students are top students from their secondary schools anyway.

    Years ago, in the early 80’s on campus, my close friend and I already sensed that we, the daughters of suburban dwellers of modest means, would become obsolete at Wesleyan. These days, ironically, our children must look at their future university education from what those acceptance letters offer these talented, STEM-oriented students, because all American universities are so expensive now, even UCONN. Fortunately, my sons are not aware of the prestige, or impressive name of a university (it’s really only parents that are hung-up on that, anyway,) probably because they are sort of math and computer nerds, and don’t get the “why?” However, they are aware that they may get some grants and scholarships for their performance in public HS and their high AP and SAT subject tests scores. And, to a smaller extent, their partial nationality and ethnicity (Finland & Armenia) give them the possibility of being awarded impressive, scholarships tied to those connections. Lastly, athletic accomplishments, and participating in First Robotics gain the attention of certain schools.

    As much as I would love for all of them to go to a highly selective school, like Wesleyan, it just might be impossible because of the cost. The main reason I prefer the most selective schools like Wesleyan, is simply for my child to be surrounded by the brightest, most creative, most ambitious students in his lifetime; it is a wonderful 4 years to spend with amazing students from all over. And, of course, the alumni network is outstanding in small, prestigious colleges.

    State universities have swelled with enrollment, since that is where this “vast middle” must go since paying tuition for more than one child has become too difficult for families particularly in the mid-atlantic,northeastern seaboard, and the Pacific Northwest. Less prestigious, less selective schools, offer academic scholarships to kids with high SAT’s and AP’s. I can’t tell you how often small, obscure schools everywhere, and gigantic state universities have sent my son brochures and e-mails; thousands by now.

    In Finland, all top 10% of HS students are automatically “in”; the next group have strong chances to get into the many, some new, universities in the cities other than the capital. Amazing new fields dealing with the environment have sprung up in the Arctic Circle area. Of course, I doubt the USA could ever offer free education to all its university/college/community college/technical schools/polytechnic institute students like the Nordic countries, because that type of “change” would require a fundamental, existential change to the way American society & government is structured. However, more and more American students are enrolling in European universities, as most of them are far below the costs of American schools. Subsequently, that type of student would have to be very mature, disciplined and savvy to navigate the complete independence of studying at a European university far from home. My sons would not be ready for that type of intensity, and solitude, and pursue their studies on their own while living in a city apartment. Cooking daily, let alone buying groceries, doing laundry, housework, paying bills, commuting to lectures by public transport, is not yet a life skill they know, in order for that to work out!

    The conundrum that families like ours face, with regard to the incredibly high tuition at private American universities, is a sad one. At least, with the STEM majors, students will have a huge and substantial chance to find meaningful work in their area of interest upon graduation. Companies and start-ups are insanely interested in STEM students, so the idea of perhaps starting out with a large debt may not be so bad. Albeit, this is still the best-case scenario, and not a guarantee.

    I don’t know what will happen to the future of American private universities, especially the less selective ones, but it seems logical that a school like Wesleyan will evolve into a school for very wealthy students and ones on full financial aid. The only positive idea I can muster up is that specific academic grants, particularly in the STEM majors, should be adopted for all students, including that “vast middle” I mentioned. The first universities that announce that they will actively and early, grant substantial tuition aid, and acceptance for an academically qualified STEM student, will become a very popular institution, indeed. Because, the reality is, the population of STEM kids, doesn’t change. It is still a very small portion who are intrigued by this field of studies. China and India can produce more engineers, but the truly passionate ones are the same proportion in all industrialized countries. And, unlike most people who feel a liberal arts education is the best, I firmly believe that STEM will generate and restore the economic engine for any country’s GDP. This is why heads of state are so actively trying to improve education in primary and secondary school. Kids like my sons, don’t just decide suddenly, at say, 19 that they want to pursue something like microbiology, nanotechnology, engineering or fuel technology.

    The only negative development I see at many American campuses, is the unusual increased development of a myriad number of administrators within the universities. I really wonder what some of these administrators (all on 6-figure salaries with handsome benefits) do all day…including at our High Schools? One university in particular, went overboard on building multi-million dollar new departments, athletic centers; shrunk the undergraduate engineering dept. of all things, laid-off professors, and fooled with their endowment, AFTER they had hired a vast amount of administrators. We immediately crossed that school off our list, because, in my steady Scandinavian sense, I think its reputation will be in the tank, shortly. All you have to do is Google the financial health of a university, and many nightmare situations pop-up on the screen. Schools where the department (the sciences and engineering being the most expensive) your child is interested in, is struggling with little funding. So, no schools where the tuition is sky-high, and there is an unusually high amount of administrators of very vague value. Just look at all the non-faculty personnel in the next university website, and you’ll see what I mean. I can tell you, several of these types of schools send my son multiple brochures and imploring letters because we live in a presumably affluent town. It really aggravates me.

    Lastly, for our family, we need to examine all the details of any university, and, unfortunately for us, whether it is affordable (if no grants/scholarships) for our sons, every other year, starting next spring. My husband and I will have to work until our early 70’s to make sure we can retire without having to move-in with one of our sons someday…something, we definitely want to avoid. Wesleyan was a wonderful college for me, and, I have lasting good memories. I am a bit ashamed that I can only write small checks now and then when I receive a Wesleyan Fund call, and my only reason for that is, we support several charities every year that we are dedicated to, and simply do not have significant resources. Every family has their unique expenses that they wish will remain personal. We basically started saving and planning for tuition for our children 18 years ago. We have always lived very frugally, in recycled, older homes, driving 10-year-old Toyotas…a lifestyle aided by my ability to live on a shoe-string budget for many years like most artists. I hope Wesleyan can accommodate more middle/upper middle income students somehow, as they are disappearing from these types of campuses. And, if you look back at who created all the patents, breakthroughs, high, creative achievements in any field, it was usually the son or daughter of immigrants and middle-class parents…living in some ordinary town, coming from ordinary public schools in NJ, CT, MA, CA, WI..wherever.

  8. The only negative development I see at many American campuses, is the unusual increased development of a myriad number of administrators within the universities. I really wonder what some of these administrators (all on 6-figure salaries with handsome benefits) do all day…including at our High Schools? One university in particular, went overboard on building multi-million dollar new departments, athletic centers; shrunk the undergraduate engineering dept. of all things, laid-off professors, and fooled with their endowment, AFTER they had hired a vast amount of administrators. We immediately crossed that school off our list, because, in my steady Scandinavian sense, I think its reputation will be in the tank, shortly. All you have to do is Google the financial health of a university, and many nightmare situations pop-up on the screen. Schools where the department (the sciences and engineering being the most expensive) your child is interested in, is struggling with little funding. So, no schools where the tuition is sky-high, and there is an unusually high amount of administrators of very vague value. Just look at all the non-faculty personnel in the next university website, and you’ll see what I mean. I can tell you, several of these types of schools send my son multiple brochures and imploring letters because we live in a presumably affluent town. It really aggravates me.

  9. I don’t know what will happen to the future of American private universities, especially the less selective ones, but it seems logical that a school like Wesleyan will evolve into a school for very wealthy students and ones on full financial aid. The only positive idea I can muster up is that specific academic grants, particularly in the STEM majors, should be adopted for all students, including that “vast middle” I mentioned

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