November 9, 2017

Four weeks ago, Wheaton’s Board of Trustees met for an annual fall meeting to discuss and vote on school policies, including a 3.5 percent tuition increase. The Board of Finance Trustee Committee recommends a tuition increase each year to be voted on and decided by the Trustees. The finance team, led by Dale Kemp, Vice President for Finance and Operations, makes this recommendation by trying to balance the College’s anticipated expenses while maintaining affordability.

The 3.5 percent  tuition increase was approved, meaning tuition for the 2018-2019 school year will be raised from $35,190 to $36,420. . According to The College Board, private colleges experienced a 3.7 percent increase, on average, in 2014-2015 as compared to a 2.9 percent increase at public universities. Tuition has increased at schools nationally nationally at 5 percent over the past ten years on average. Over the past three years, Wheaton’s tuition has increased 3.3 percent on average. Karen Belling, Interim Enrollment Manager, says that Wheaton has a similar, if not lower, annual increase when compared to similar schools. After the Student Financial Services office created a group of 26 private and 10 public schools to which Wheaton applicants commonly apply, data showed the mean increase for those schools was 4.45 percent and the median was 3.74 percent.

This increase accounts for inflationary adjustments in staff payroll and operating costs as well as adding to the financial aid made available to students, according to Kemp. The tuition increase alone adds roughly one million in funds for financial aid purposes to the upcoming year and six million in total net funds, according to Belling. Although this accounts for a large portion of financial aid, other sources such as donations and need also play into the available yearly aid. These donations include the “From the Heart, For the Kingdom” campaign, a Wheaton charity to which donors contribute funds to make a Wheaton education more affordable, as well as annual funding, endowment returns and annual budgeting. According to Belling, these sources of income usually allow the financial aid packages to rise along with tuition increases. However, the projected financial aid for the 2018-2019 school year is currently increasing at a higher rate than tuition, creating larger aid amounts available to students in need.

According to Belling, by trying to raise donor funds and endowments each year, the college may add more services without additional costs and avoid taking out loans to build and maintain campus projects. The net increase of raised funds supplements the school budget for special projects, such as the Welcome Center or the Armerding Center for the Arts. These projects, worth over 37 million in additions, are completely covered by donor contributions and are not funded by tuition increases.

In the next year, a new position, called the Chief Enrollment Manager, will be created to better integrate the yearly transitions that come with increasing tuition, Belling said. This officer will be the overseer of Undergraduate Admissions, Graduate Admissions and Financial Services and have the goal of creating a more streamlined process in which these departments report to one overseer. Belling hopes that this will create a more efficient and abundant Financial Aid distribution process in the future, especially in light of future tuition increases.