Staff Editorial: Doing even better: Let's find solutions on cost of attendance

By The Mac Weekly Staff

Ouch.There’s little more to say about the announcement of a 7.3 percent increase in the comprehensive fee for the next academic year. Macalester students (or their parents) will be expected to cough up an additional $3,062 for a whopping $44,976 tab.

Yes, cost increases might well be inevitable to ensure that Macalester attracts eminent faculty and excellent students while continuing to expand academic programming.

After all, that seems to be the trend in our peer group of 40 colleges, from Amherst to Wesleyan, mentioned by the Board of Trustees every time it makes or proposes an increase in tuition. Grinnell College, whose endowment of $1.72 billion far outstrips our $675 million, increased its tuition by 13 percent for the 2007-2008 academic year.

And Macalester does remain in the bottom four for total costs among our peer institutions, certainly offering among the most generous financial aid. Part of that tuition increase, will after all, go to a 30 cent-per-hour raise in wages and more hours for work-study.

But we’re not convinced administrators couldn’t do more to make a Macalester education even more accessible. As tuition rises, financial aid has also decreased: the percentage of domestic first-year students receiving aid dropped from 70.1 in the fall of 2005, to 66.9 in 2006, to 66.2 this fall. The number of domestic first-year students applying for financial aid also fell from 311 in 2005 and 267 granted requests, to 270 applicants and 238 recipients this year, raising the question of what students from what income brackets we are now attracting or discouraging from applying?

Some of our peer institutions-that’s right, peer institutions-have taken serious steps to eliminate loans altogether. Giving out serious grant money is no longer something just for the wealthiest Ivy League schools as liberal arts schools use their endowments to increase access. When North Carolina’s Davidson College, for example, began raising $110 million to permanently remove loans from its financial aid package, the huge James B. Duke Foundation pledged $15 million to support the project.

Why not Macalester?

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.