In my nearly 40 years as a teacher and administrator, I cannot recall a time that has been more challenging or uncertain for our nation’s economy or for higher education. Like most colleges and universities, both our endowment and private gifts for current operations have declined. The impact of these contractions is likely to be felt for several years.
Despite the challenges presented by these constraints, we have developed a budget for the coming academic year that is guided by four principals: preserve the quality of the academic experience for our students; identify and secure opportunities to achieve increased operational efficiencies; maintain faith with our faculty and staff, who make our students’ success possible, and limit increases in tuition and fees in recognition of economic concerns and challenges faced by the families of our students.
I believe we have succeeded in meeting all four goals. At their winter meeting late last month, the Board of Visitors and Governors approved the smallest percentage tuition increase in 34 years. For next year, charges for tuition, room and board will increase by $1,625 or 3.95%. I realize that any increase will present a challenge to most families. Our student financial aid office stands ready to help students and parents explore options for low-interest loans and opportunities for external scholarship support.
Despite budgetary constraints, I am pleased to report that we have made significant improvements to life on campus and will continue to see progress next year. Last fall we opened two beautiful new residence halls. In January, we installed a wide-area emergency broadcast system to enhance student safety. A recent grant from the Mellon Foundation will allow us to inaugurate a “Chesapeake Semester” this coming fall. We will also re-open a greatly expanded Gibson Center for the Arts and a new dining hall and student center. Clearly, the days ahead will bring excitement and opportunity.
My colleagues and I recognize the tremendous sacrifices that families make to send their student to Washington College. We remain committed to providing the kind of liberal arts education that will only appreciate in value over a lifetime.