President Janet Holmgren and a panel of administrators addressed
several student concerns in a two-part discussion session entitled
Access, Diversity and the Strategic Plan. The most prominent
concern addressed was the 2004-2005 tuition increase.
“True access is a high priority at this institution: access to
the highest quality of education for all students,” said Holmgren
when she opened the discussion. She went on to explain that the
tuition increase was due to issues of competition – comparing Mills
to peer institutions, other private colleges in California such as
Redlands, Pitzer, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Whittier, Saint Mary’s and
“We are aware that whatever our tuition is, it is a stretch,”
said Holmgren. However, she acknowledged, “We have to be
competitive in our pricing.”
Students asked why there was a need for a budget increase.
According to Holmgren, the tuition increase can be attributed to a
tuition freeze from 1993 to 1995 due to concern about access and
having adequate financial aid to meet student need.
As a result Mills lost ground competitively with other peer
institutions. Mills is the least expensive of its peer group and
provides the most financial aid. “Harvey Mudd tuition is $28,000 a
year and Mills is $23,000,” said Holmgren.
Holmgren further explained some of the ways in which the college
has been affected in keeping attendance costs low.
“We have lost ground with faculty salaries as well as staff
salaries and the ability to hire and retain employees. We have to
think very hard before we make repairs because the budget is so
Holmgren feels that the solution to providing better resources
for the college and its students lies in the tuition increase. “We
want to be competitive in what we have to offer,” she said. “An
increase allows us to support our plant, faculty and staff in its
capacity to educate students.”
A student in the audience of the discussion who has attended
several of the peer institutions responded to Holmgren’s points.
“Pitzer, Cal Arts, Harvey Mudd and Scripps are very white campuses.
Are these really schools we want to aspire to be? Maybe the focus
should be on securing students rather than competition.”
Tanzania Anderson, a sophomore, shared her concerns for the
“everyday student.” She said, “The things we have to do to pay for
our education doesn’t seem to be a concern to the college.”
Holmgren responded, “We may think about freezing tuition for the
seniors in their last year. We will look into various ways to help
students stay at Mills.” However, when asked how well the 1993-1995
freeze worked, she said that the freeze had a negative impact on
the institution. “We had to play some catch up; in the long run I
wouldn’t say it had a positive affect for the college or student
morale,” she said.
Dean of Students Shirley Weisharr said that many of the people
on the panel had children either in college or entering college.
“It isn’t as though we don’t understand the impact this has on a
family,” she said.
Panel member and Provost Mary Ann Milford encouraged students to
work with Director of Financial Aid David Gin on a one-on-one
basis. “We are concerned and will do what we can to help each of
you,” said Milford.