Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
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College housing policy: an update

Posted on February 9, 2012

We introduced the idea of paying different rates for different types of student housing on January 31. In the past eight days we have talked with our students and our alumnae/i, and we have listened. I have heard deep feelings expressed about the importance of Wheaton’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community. On Tuesday evening we hosted an open forum in Hindle Auditorium to discuss the housing policy. We promised to come back to you with our thoughts by the end of this week. We have decided not to move forward with this policy.

More than 300 students turned out for the campus forum that we had planned to discuss the proposed policy. While I was traveling for Wheaton and unable to attend, I have been told by my colleagues that those who attended listened carefully; asked excellent questions about how the policy might be implemented; and offered their own suggestions for improving housing, saving money and raising revenue. By all accounts, it was an example of Wheaton at its best: a community sharing ideas and perspectives in a thoughtful and productive discussion.

Our mission statement says that Wheaton College provides a transformative liberal arts education for intellectually curious students in a collaborative, academically vibrant residential community that values a diverse world. Those aren’t just words on a page. They are our values. Our community is vibrant and diverse, and your comments reflected your own commitment to these values. Frankly, we are proud of the way our community engaged in this public discussion. Housing equity, we realize, is a core expression of our values and a keystone of the collegial community we share.

However, the need for revenue is real. If we are to maintain our commitment to providing access to students offered admission, we need to increase revenue. This year, the college’s financial aid budget rose much faster than revenue, resulting in a shortfall of more than $3 million. Our forecasts indicate that this trend will continue next year, as the economic downturn continues to affect our families. While we have made significant expense cuts, leaving no line of the budget untouched, cuts alone will not close the gap.

It is my responsibility to lead, and we will need to continue to seek increased revenues. We will all be called upon to share in this effort. We have been fortunate to receive generous support for investments that improve the quality of students’ educational experience (witness the Mars Center for Science and Technology), even in the midst of an economic downturn. You have my personal commitment that in our decision-making we will be mindful of what we have heard. We value your shared dedication to Wheaton College.

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