Addressing Affordability of SWC’s Graduate Education: Part Two
For academic year 2012-13, we have increased our scholarship offerings approximately SEVEN-FOLD. There are approximately thirty some opportunities through the year for students to get some help making ends meet as they negotiate the complicated waters of graduate school. Honorary Scholarships, Donor Scholarships, Graduate Assistantships, Quimby Scholarships, Diversity Scholarships, not to mention scholarships for the Children’s Mental Health Certificate program.
As we have suggested elsewhere, when we make the decision to give away much more money, we DO have to understand the implications for the College’s bottom line. Make no mistake about it—Non-profits have to make a profit, or they will go out of business, and fast. Southwestern College is 33 years old—we “get” money. Here, the profits go back into the school, to the faculty, building a building, landscaping, big screen televisions in the classrooms, more resources in the library, more art supplies, rather than to stockholders who take the profits for personal gain. That’s one difference.
So in the spirit of transparency, here is the financial deal-ee-o. We recognize that it is difficult for some to afford graduate school, and we are very intentionally strategizing (and taking action steps) to help students achieve their dreams. So where does the money come from? Well, as you can imagine, we make LESS profit when we give scholarships away. Our plan/hope/assessment is that as we increase our efforts to be sensitive to, and collaborative with our students, that a handful of additional new students will notice that and decide to come here, thus boosting enrolment enough to offset at least part of the cost. We hope that our current students will experience us as walking our talk and become ambassadors for the school, telling friends and colleagues that the College worked with them to make their education happen. Pretty straightforward stuff.
And in case you’re wondering—we are committed to keeping class size where the master teachers of each course feels that course should be. (Some classes, like Group, might have an optimal number of nine, whereas for Consciousness I, Katherine prefers eighteen.) We have no interest in crazy growth. Some of our sister schools, fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, have gone down that road, grew like crazy, then toppled over because the growth was too fast, or un-planned, or the economy changed on them, or whatever. At any rate, they took a pounding. We track and learn from that sort of thing.
So there you go. I attend the Higher Learning Commission Conference every spring (this year with Webb), and in April there was much talk about “affordability”, “sustainability” and “transparency.” So this little series of blogs is my effort to be responsive to the concerns of national leadership, to our own Board of Trustees, and, most importantly, to our student body. We wish you well, and are working to help you become the helper/healer you were meant to be…
In Sincerity and Open-ness,
Jim Nolan, President