Wesley R. Fugate
As I write to you from my office in Edgar Hall, I look out onto our beautiful campus and see the welcome sight of masked students walking to class. Oh, how wonderful it is to have them back on campus! I think their returning energy has bolstered the College’s faculty and staff and given them the boost they needed to get through this challenging year; I certainly know I have renewed strength and hope.
I must continue to thank you for your support of the College as we deal with the economic challenges resulting from the pandemic. Your gifts to the College, help with recruitment of students, and aid in spreading the good word about Wilson are critical now. Our alumnae, alumni, and friends have always been our greatest assets, and, once again, you have come through for us.
Unfortunately, this academic year alone, the pandemic has robbed the College of $3.5 million in revenue, not to speak of the extra expenses required to keep our community safe. We are lucky to have received some aid from the federal government, but it only covers a fraction of this lost revenue and increased expense. So, thank you for all you are doing to help us weather this storm.
Another storm is potentially brewing, however. In recent years politicians on both sides of the aisle and media pundits have led the public to believe that nonprofit, independent colleges and universities, like Wilson, are elite institutions focused only on wealthy families. The reality is that most institutions in our sector serve a diverse array of students, including those from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
This narrative is impacting public policy. The Biden administration’s initial $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package proposal excluded independent, nonprofit colleges and our students. Thankfully, this past year institutions like ours have received strong bipartisan support in Congress, and I am pleased to report that House and Senate rectified this exclusion.
Additionally, with the change in presidential administrations and the new Congress come different policy priorities. We are encouraged that the new administration has proposed three major higher education policy initiatives: free community college, free four-year public college for families making less than $125,000, and doubling the Pell Grant, which goes to the nation’s financially neediest students. Unfortunately, only one of these proposals benefits our students: doubling the Pell Grant.
As we seek to educate the public about the important contribution independent, nonprofit institutions make in educating all students, you can play a pivotal role. I urge you to speak loudly and proudly about the impact institutions like Wilson have in providing a more educated citizenry.
Did you know that a recent study by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) found that independent, nonprofit colleges provide $591.5 billion in economic impact, generate $77.6 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue, and support and sustain 3.4 million jobs in the U.S.? At the same time, these institutions have a four-year graduation rate that is 16% higher than 4-year public institutions and a 6-year graduation rate that is 6% higher.
A common myth is that private colleges and universities do not serve a diverse student body. This is simply not true. Compared to 4-year public institutions, independent, nonprofit institutions enroll similar percentages of students from underrepresented groups by race and ethnicity. Similarly, we enroll slightly larger percentages of adult students (those 25 and older) and women, and our percentages of Pell Grant recipients are similar. Our students are less likely to default on their student loans, and our average net price as a percentage of total costs by family income is lower.
I am asking you to join us in advocating for policy proposals that are inclusive of all students, including those at institutions like Wilson. Doubling the Pell Grant could help us ensure that those students who need the most financial assistance can receive the excellent Wilson education they deserve.
Thank you for helping us carry this important message, and thank you for your ongoing support of our students.