“Mills is an investment.” Isn’t that the truth?
Based on 2011-2012 figures from the college, students can expect to pay an estimated $57,000 a year on their Mills education. Assuming that incoming freshwomen spend all four years of their undergrad education here, students can expect to pay almost $230,000. Our “little brother” UC Berkeley expect their residential students to pay just over $28,000 a year (that’s $122,000 for four years). So, why do we choose a private school over a public school?
The biggest selling point is the supposedly better opportunities. Here, our professors know us by name and are genuinely concerned about our educational experience.
Our class sizes are small so that students can get individual attention in workshops and research labs. I personally chose Mills over a UC school four years ago because I wanted a community that appreciated my contributions and wanted me to succeed. Despite the financial burden, I knew it would be worth it.
Unfortunately, over these four years, I have seen a decline in the quality of experience Mills has offered. This academic year alone, I’ve heard rumors and whisperings about financial difficulties the college is experiencing, and as of late I’m inclined to believe the gossip.
These financial difficulties have led the administration to make some alarming decisions—including the decision to drop the Film Studies minor after Professor Burke retires in 2013. The Film Studies minor is a valuable supplement to several majors, as well as the final remnant of Mills’ late great Performing Arts department.
Also alarmingly, the College has recently changed the policy regarding financial aid for students studying abroad. Their website reads “Starting with the 2012-2013 academic year, students studying abroad may be eligible to receive federal and state financial aid under certain conditions but will not be eligible to receive institutional scholarships, i.e. merit-based and need-based Mills scholarships, institutional grants, or institutional loans.”
How does Mills expect the French and Francophone department to survive if French students after 2012 cannot apply their full financial aid packages to international study, a requirement of the major? Why mold us into inquisitive and thoughtful individuals if the College isn’t willing to assist us in expanding our horizons and sharing what we’ve learned in Oakland to somewhere as far away as Oman?
While these decisions may save a buck today, what will be the more significant long-term costs? It is not reasonable to expect the incoming classes of Mills students to be fully well-rounded individuals by the time they leave here if the administration continues to limit opportunities offered to students.
My four years here at Mills has been worth the extra tuition: I’ve made invaluable friendships, been pushed academically and encouraged creatively. I have thoroughly enjoyed my classes and adore the faculty. Founders has its shining moments every now and then, and access to resources like the Library, Haas Pavilion and the Student Health Center has been great. However, I’m worried for the future of Mills College.
I’m graduating in a couple of weeks, so what’s the point in rocking the boat? Because I love this place and when I come back for my “Golden Anniversary,” I don’t want to hear another speech like Evelyn “Muffy” McKinstry Thorne’s from this year’s Convocation ceremony encouraging the College to reinstate programs that we take for granted today.
I can’t say that I have an answer (maybe you should ask an Econ major) but I do hope that the administration will communicate better with the faculty and students to come up with a solution that satisfies everyone in the community.
Allison Morris is a senior graduating with a B.A. in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing.
She will be participating in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in August and is looking forward to applying her degree in the “real world,” away from the Mills Bubble.