On March 18, Provost and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer notified the campus community in an email that the 2016-2017 academic year comprehensive fee will be set at $64,060.
In the past five years, the comprehensive fee has grown by more than $10,000. Over the past 15 years, the comprehensive fee for the college has nearly doubled. Tuition and fees have risen sharply at Colby’s peer institutions, liberal arts colleges, and large universities across the country, as well.
In the announcement, Kletzer stated, “Colby’s student-centered approach to teaching and learning involves significant cost. Attracting and retaining world-class faculty, providing programs that inspire lifelong learning, and offering opportunities that prepare our students to enter an increasingly complicated global society all require tremendous resources.”
This is the second consecutive year that the comprehensive fee has grown by approximately 3.75 percent. Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the comprehensive fee grew at an average of 3.4 percent. On March 20, 2015, President David A. Greene announced that the comprehensive fee would go above $60,000 a year. The comprehensive fee for the 2015-2016 academic year is $61,730, an increase of 3.75 percent, from last year.
Last year, Greene also announced the College would be increasing its commitment to financial aid. In September 2015, the College announced a substantial increase in funding for financial aid called the Colby Commitment. According to a college press release, Colby will meet full demonstrated need and will not include student loans in financial aid packages. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, which produces the Common Data Set, details that 759 students receive financial aid from the school and that the average financial aid award is $38,406.
According to the 2014-2015 Financial Overview, an annual report produced by the College, “student charge revenues of $108.7 million—including the comprehensive fee and other charges—[represent] the largest source of income for the College, comprising 71 percent of total revenues.” Overall, the College has $147.5 million in operating expenses for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, 34.9 percent of which went to instruction, research, and academic support. The next largest expense for the school was financial aid.
The 2014-2015 Faculty Compensation Report (FCR) compares faculty compensation to that of other NESCAC schools. Faculty compensation is the largest expense for the College. The average salary of a full-time faculty member at Colby is $103,900. In all, of the full-time faculty, 40 percent are professors, 23 percent are associate professors, and 37 percent are assistant professors. The College also offers a comprehensive benefits package to all faculty members and staff. Colby, when compared to other NESCAC institutions, is seventh in salary and sixth in total compensation according to the 2014-2015 FCR. The same report stated, “nationally, Colby’s average salaries are in the top 5 percent of all baccalaureate colleges for professors, associates, and ‘all’ salaries and in the top 10 percent for assistants.”
The College has flexibility when determining the comprehensive fee. Currently, the College’s endowment subsidizes the cost of educating a student. Colby, like Bates, charges a single fee and does not break down the costs of tuition, room and board, and activity fees. Schools such as Bowdoin and Williams, disperse the total cost among categories of fees ranging from tuition to student activity fees.
In relation to other NESCAC schools, Colby is one of the most expensive. Most NESCAC institutions cost more than $60,000 a year; however, Colby’s most recent comprehensive fee increase pushes the college above the NESCAC average of $62,847. In the NESCAC, Wesleyan University is the most expensive school and charges $64,654. Colby is the only other institution that charges more than $64,000.
As tuition continues to rise and the cost of a college education continues to burden families across the country, Colby must reconsider the affordability of the College when setting the fee. In two years at this rate of increase in tuition, the College will grapple with the reality that the cost of a Colby education will surpass $70,000. According to the US Census Bureau, the mean household income in the US is $72,641.
At Colby, 55 percent of the College’s budget is delegated for instruction and financial aid. This severely limits the College’s flexibility in budgeting. Roughly 42 percent of the student body receives financial aid; therefore, as the cost of Colby continues to strain families paying full price, the College must expand its financial aid resources at a faster pace. The future of the comprehensive fee is uncertain; yet, the College must continue to balance affordability and financial security.