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Tuition discounts present first test for new president

September 12, 2014

Fresh after the start of term, the office of the registrar announced a new record: this year’s freshman class hit an all-time high of 396 freshmen, beating the previously recorded high of 393 students in 2007.

Combined with 43 new transfer students and its retention rate of 84.57 percent, the college’s overall head count totaled 1,303 students.

The National Center for Educational Statistics recorded Monmouth College’s opening enrollment on census day last year as 1,255 students.

While the numbers are a positive sign towards Monmouth’s future, a contributing reason for the rise could come from the increased number of discounts applied to the freshman class’s tuition.

Discount, as explained by President Clarence Wyatt, is an inside term for the process of awarding financial aid and scholarships to students based on established need as well as merit.

Both Wyatt and vice president of finance and business Richard Marshall assure that this year’s freshman should continue to receive about the same financial aid their remaining years at Monmouth as this year’s.

“Barring a change in circumstances, they should receive about the same aid their sophomore year as their freshman year,” Marshall said.

However, because one of the college’s three primary sources of revenue is student revenue (room and board, tuition and outside aid like state scholarships), not every incoming class can receive as much aid.

“How long can awe sustain that? We can’t,” Wyatt said. “That’s the bottom line.”

The decision to apply increased discounts to the freshman class was made prior to Marshall’s appointment in April and Wyatt’s arrival to Monmouth on July 1. However, the college has already taken steps to reduce the financial reliance on student tuition in the future.

“This institution has been using an aid leveraging formula by a national marketing and financial aid consultant and for a variety of reasons…we’ve moved to a new firm that will provide us better service and a better model that is applicable to this institution and the demographics that we serve,” Marshall said.

The college will now be working with Bill Hall and his firm, Applied Policy Research. Wyatt worked with Hall and his firm throughout his tenure at Centre College, part of which he served as chief financial officer.

“I’ve known him for 20 years, and he’s a product of the liberal arts background,” Wyatt said. “Like us, he believes in the mission of residential liberal arts colleges so it’s not just a job, it’s a passion.”

With the individual firm and its experience with liberal arts, Wyatt projects that the college will have a way of assigning financial aid on a more tailored basis.“It allows us to assign aid in a way that makes the best use of it not only for each individual family but it really is much more finely tuned instrument than we had before,” Wyatt said. “We want to provide an experience both high in quality and that will allow us to have high achievement.”

In addition to using a new model to calculate financial aid, Wyatt and Marshall will also be working with vice president of development Stephen Bloomer to continue the trend of growing another of the college’s prime sources of revenue, the college’s endowment.

Since 2003, the endowment has tripled, which both Wyatt and Marshall consider to be an incredible accomplishment for a private institution.

“The bigger our endowment, the more that can contribute to the opportunity and advancement of this place and take some pressure off of student revenue, and it will allow us to award more aid,” Marshall said.

Cassie Burton
Courier Editor in Chief

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