Report on the February 2012 Board of Trustees Meeting

February 29, 2012

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

We write to report on the meetings of the Board of Trustees held from Wednesday through Saturday of last week. The Board was joined in several sessions by faculty members, students, and staff, for whose time and good counsel we are very grateful. The Board was also joined for a day by two distinguished guests, Eugene M. Tobin, Program Officer for Liberal Arts Colleges at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and David R. Breneman, Professor in Economics of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, who brought very helpful outside perspectives on higher education generally and liberal arts colleges especially.

At its formal meeting on Saturday, the Board set tuition, room, and board charges for the coming year. After lengthy and thorough discussions that began at the October Finance Committee meeting, continued in more detail at a January retreat of the Finance Committee, and culminated in further discussion during the recent meetings on campus, the Board voted unanimously that there be no change in the rate of tuition, room, and board for 2012-2013. This decision not to raise tuition or room and board, the College’s first 0% increase since 1968, rests on two related foundations. The first is Mount Holyoke’s long commitment to providing access to educational excellence for academically talented students from the full spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States and around the world. The second is a sharpened awareness of the ways pricing affects our own annual budget as well as the budgets of our students (current and prospective) and their families. Like many other colleges in this nation, Mount Holyoke has been increasing tuition, room, and board annually, at rates that have consistently outpaced inflation and growth in household income. We have accompanied those price increases with increases in financial aid, trying as far as possible, and with a growing percentage of our annual budget, to support the exceptional student body we have and continue to seek. Continuing such a pattern, particularly in this economy, is no longer sustainable. Projections suggest that a year of no increase would not significantly harm, and may over time help, the College’s ability to deliver the first-rate education we all value and improve the College’s affordability.

Throughout its four days of discussions, the Board heard reports on the progress of strategic planning initiatives under the four broad headings proposed by the College Planning Committee: (1) enhance the value of the core undergraduate offering in the liberal arts to students and their families; (2) lower the cost structure of the College; (3) gain new revenue from new markets; and (4) optimize net tuition revenue. While mindful that many details of implementation remain under discussion on campus, the Board issued a statement of strong support for the strategies that have emerged from the planning process as the most promising and consistent with Mount Holyoke’s mission. Among these are optimizing net tuition revenue, curriculum to career programming, enhanced advising, and reducing the number of visiting faculty. The Board’s consensus is that coeducation in the undergraduate degree program would not strengthen us at this time. The Board’s statement, approved unanimously, is as follows:

The Board of Trustees remains committed to guiding Mount Holyoke College to even greater academic and financial strength. The Board reaffirms its commitment to educating women and endorses the strategic planning initiatives outlined by the College Planning Committee as both necessary and urgent to assure our long term sustainability. The Board recognizes that strategic planning is evolving and iterative, and that the process will continue to produce innovative and exciting approaches to advancing our mission.

The Board was very appreciative of all the hard work that went into developing the planning initiatives, and urges their timely implementation. The Trustees understand that work will continue this spring as several recommendations are discussed further and refined into a clear strategic framework for the short, medium, and longer term. They look forward to receiving that framework at their May meeting, and to having regular updates in the meantime and thereafter on the College’s progress.

The Board was also pleased to approve tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor for Katherine Aidala, Physics; Nigel Alderman, English; Patricia Banks, Sociology; Amber Douglas, Psychology; Elizabeth Markovits, Politics; Olabode Omojola, Music; Erika Rundle, Theatre Arts; and Amina Steinfels, Religion.

The entire Board of Trustees joins us in extending thanks to the faculty, students, and staff who helped make our meetings productive and successful. We are grateful too for the distinction and dedication of Mount Holyoke’s faculty, the strength and commitment of its staff, and the minds and talents of the students we are all so privileged to serve.

Mary Graham Davis ’65 and Lynn Pasquerella '80