MHC Moment: March 2012

The leadership of Mount Holyoke is compelled daily by the question of how a college reconciles a reliance on tuition dollars with a mission of providing access to academic excellence regardless of socioeconomic status. When the board of trustees voted at its February meeting to institute a zero percent increase in tuition, room and board, holding 2012-13 costs to the 2011-12 rates, they offered a courageous answer to the tuition/access question; such a bold move is rare for an institution of Mount Holyoke’s selectivity and reputation. In fact, Mount Holyoke has been decreasing its rate of tuition for a number of years; this zero percent is an exclamation point on a movement that has been underway for some time.

I have argued that the current model of raising tuition beyond the rate of inflation is not sustainable for our students and their families; what is not often recognized is that it is not sustainable for our institution either. In fact, when we raise tuition, an institution like ours that is committed to access simultaneously raises student financial aid investment. We also see significant increases in student loans for those students with financial need; our entire country will feel the burden of a burgeoning debt load for college graduates who depart into an uncertain economic and employment environment.

While historic arguments have suggested that cost equals quality, and excellence in education requires an equally significant price tag, we recognize that today’s students are increasingly looking for affordability. Those women and their families who choose Mount Holyoke select a top-rated classroom experience and a career/life-enhancing network of alumnae around the globe, and they make this selection with the support of one of the most generous financial aid programs in the world.

In a recent article entitled, The Hot New College Commodity: Affordability, educational consultant Dan Lundquist described Mount Holyoke’s recent decision, praising the College’s leaders for making “difficult and forward thinking decisions.” I have appreciated reading the comments submitted by many of you to articles and news clips announcing this decision; your pride in this institution is evident, and I know this coverage and your thoughtful comments will attract additional attention to the College. Thank you for taking the time to share your enthusiasm for your education and Mount Holyoke’s mission.

I am equally grateful to you for recognizing the connection between your own philanthropic investment in Mount Holyoke and our ability as an institution to invest in our students. They—and you—are the reason we are here, preparing to celebrate 175 years of educating women for purposeful engagement in the world.

–President Pasquerella ’80

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