VOLUME 12, NO. 1 JUNE 1998
President addresses state of the University, challenges, needs
trategic tuition increases and the upcoming capital campaign are the linchpins of "a great leap forward" that will reposition WPI at the forefront of America's top-ranked universities, propel the University to even higher levels of academic excellence, and provide considerable new resources over several years for needed investments, according to President Edward A. Parrish.
Parrish discussed these and other initiatives and shared his vision and plan for the future with more than 300 members of the campus community who attended his State of the University Address in Alden Memorial in mid-March. He spoke animatedly and optimistically about WPI's strategic position and its opportunities, both locally and nationally. He explained the impact of costs on that position and the challenges of cutting costs while improving quality, maintaining competitiveness, and meeting the demands of students and their parents for the amenities they expect.
A five-year plan to increase tuition and fees (currently at $18,910) will begin this fall, when the costs will rise by 9 percent to $20,648 for the 1998-99 academic year; room and board will increase 5.5 percent. In 1999-00 the price will go up an additional 6.75 percent to $22,108. Tuition and fees increases in the final three years of the plan will then be closely tied to the rate of inflation.
"Controlling costs is a national issue - one that WPI is facing squarely with academic programs reviewed against performance criteria and by addressing our financial aid strategies."
"The increase will bring WPI's price closer to its peers and more in line with current program quality," said Parrish. He noted that while the cost to educate a single student exceeds $24,300 this year, every student is supported by a general subsidy in excess of $5,500, exclusive of financial aid.
"WPI intends to maintain its long-standing commitment to making education accessible for all qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay," he said. "We will continue to offer need-based financial aid, and we will continue to work with students and their families to ensure that our aid packages remain competitive."
Parrish cited "Straight Talk About College Costs and Prices," a recent report by the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, which he said made convincing arguments that higher education is a good investment and that expenses are not out of control. "Controlling costs is a national issue - one that WPI is facing squarely with academic programs reviewed against performance criteria and by addressing our financial aid strategies," he said.
WPI's 1997-98 tuition and fees were below those of many of its peer universities (top graph). Over time, the recently approved strategic tuition increases should bring our price close to those of two key competitors, RPI and Carnegie Mellon University.
"We are also experimenting with program-based budgeting and a major reengineering effort. Last fall, for example, we implemented a Web-based registration system that not only saves money, but also makes the course registration process faster and more convenient for students."
Parrish identified several specific investments the University will make for the upcoming academic year, including
- adding new faculty members in high-demand areas to ensure that all students enjoy the high level of contact, collaboration and interaction that are the hallmarks of WPI's project-based education.
- transforming several traditional classrooms into state-of-the-art multimedia classrooms that use computers, video technology and satellite links to bring the world into the classrooms.
- increasing the budget for Gordon Library to ensure that faculty and students have access to the materials and technology they need for their work and to allow for continued participation in an important national digital library project.
- investing nearly $600,000 to increase the speed of residence hall connections tenfold, from 10 megahertz to 100 megahertz.
- expanding WPI's Global Perspective Program, "the most ambitious and successful international program at any American technological university," to ensure that any student who wishes to take part in this program may do so.
Within the next two years WPI intends to build a 71,000-square-foot campus center as well as a 33,000-square-foot academic building that will feature modern multimedia classrooms. The Campaign for WPI will raise the funds for these and other long-range objectives, including new scholarships to supplement existing financial aid.
Editor's Note: President Parrish will have more to say on the initiatives described in this article and on the outlook for WPI's future in the Fall 1997 WPI Journal.
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