Letter to the Editor, The Bates Student

Clayton Spencer, Bates College President

Earlier this week, I sent a letter to returning students and their families regarding the single fee for the 2019-20 academic year. I write this letter to provide some additional context for understanding the factors that inform our approach to setting the number. The residential liberal arts experience is an expensive form of education to provide, and it represents a substantial investment by students, families, and the college. Bates maintains a very tight operating budget, and we work very hard to control the rate of annual increases in tuition and fees.
Decisions concerning our budget and the single fee involve painstaking analysis by finance staff and college leadership, extensive consultation with campus departments and programs, and careful oversight and approval by the Board of Trustees. The single largest portion of the college’s operating budget – more than 60 percent – is devoted to attracting and retaining a talented faculty and staff. This includes wages and essential benefits such as health insurance and contribution to retirement plans. Where we can manage increases, we do. However, some fast-growing line items, such as health insurance premiums and pressures in the labor market, are beyond the college’s control.
The college allocates remaining funds to a wide variety of programs and operations as well as to maintenance of our facilities and campus. In keeping with our founding tradition of access and inclusivity, the college also dedicates $35 million each year to financial aid grants – equal to a third of our operating budget – which allows us to meet the full demonstrated need of every admitted student.
I fully understand that the cost of college is a significant concern for students and their families, and I assure you that this concern is constantly front of mind for me, for the college leadership team, and for our Board of Trustees. Balancing costs, fees, and financial aid is central to our mission of providing a first-rate liberal arts education for our students.