President Liebowitz’s Tuition Proposal Gets Press
Both Inside Higher Ed and a New York Times blog have now reported on President Liebowitz’s speech last Friday. The stories focus on Liebowitz’s proposal to not increase the comprehensive fee at a rate of more than one percent of Consumer Price Index.
The New York Times piece cites Professor Laura Perna of UPenn, who argues that Middlebury does not yet need to cap increases on tuition out of financial necessity. Intuitively, this makes sense: we are not yet at the point at which affluent families will stop paying for Middlebury.
If Professor Perna’s analysis is correct, President Liebowitz is proposing this cap on tuition for reasons beyond price elasticity. Instead, I see this cap as a bi-product of the real significance of Liebowitz’s speech—his calling out the “arms race” between colleges in better economic times.
As I see it, this “arms race” included the perceived need to increase spending on facilities, faculty, and student life in order to attract students and donations. This led to increasing the comprehensive fee above the Consumer Price Index.
I find it really encouraging that President Liebowitz seems to have the right priorities: cutting back on Middlebury’ increases in spending, while keeping the College’s core mission in place.
To be clear, an integral part of Liebowitz’s plan is to use our auxiliary programs to cover some of the losses from the decreases in revenue from tuition and donations. I’m a little skeptical of the ability of our auxiliary programs to cover these losses over the long-term, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cuts, at least in the near future.
But I find President Liebowitz’s overall message and approach really encouraging. So please continue covering this story, dear New York Times. Because Middlebury can’t end the “arms race” alone.