On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Vice President Andrew Trexler ’14 sent out an email to the student body announcing the final report from the Student Budget Sustainability Task Force. The report includes a list of recommendations to the University which, having spent over a year conducting observation and interviews, the Task Force believes will improve the University’s fiscal future.
The original Task Force was created in the fall of 2012 and consisted of 11 students: Kevin Arritt ’13, Nate Campagne ’15, Alex Japko ’14, Chi Le ’13, Michelle Li ’16, Michael Linden ’15, Zachary Malter ’13, Lina Mamut ’13, Jesse Ross-Silverman ’13, Trexler, and Rachel Warren ’14.
The report states that the Task Force’s goal is to evaluate all current and past financial decisions made by the University in order to determine the best way to restore need-blind financial aid to all domestic applicants in need.
“The Student Budget Sustainability Task Force’s stated mission is to use all available information to evaluate the suitability of the recent move to a capped financial aid budget and need-aware admissions policy,” the report reads. “During that process, the Task Force sought to identify cost savings, new revenues, or budget cuts that could ameliorate the University’s financial situation and enable Wesleyan to increase its financial aid budget, raise the discount rate, restore need blind admissions practices for domestic first-year applicants, and provide an education of the most desirable caliber and accessibility.”
Trexler elaborated on the mission and formation of the Task Force.
“At the beginning of last year, then-WSA President Zachary Malter formed the Student Budget Sustainability Task Force,” Trexler said. “He and I chaired that…and our mandate was to examine every scrap of financial information about the University that we could in the interest of reviewing the University’s recent decision to switch to a need-aware admissions model for first-year, domestic applicants. [This was] potentially in the interest of returning to need-blind financial examinations.”
The process of collecting and examining financial data took over a year. The 11 students on the Task Force worked on formulating a financial plan for the future.
“In December of 2012, we put out a preliminary report and we spent a lot of the spring revising it,” Trexler said. “We decided not to put out a final report in May of 2013, because I was going to work on it more over the summer. Then I received more information in the summer, and this is the final document.”
The report gives 15 recommendations to improve the financial prospects of the University. The list included developing a channel for donors to add to the annual financial aid budget, which was accomplished in part by the recently established Raise the Cap Fund.
WSA President Nicole Updegrove ’14 commented on one of the report’s recommendations with which students may take issue: seeking to radically change the University’s residential living program by ceasing pay of Resident Advisors (RAs).
“My response to that concern is three-fold,” Updegrove wrote in an email to The Argus. “First, that change would bring Wesleyan substantially closer to the annual savings needed to return to need-blind. Second, the recommendations called for the creation of other student jobs to help supplement the loss of student income from RA positions. Third, and most importantly, a vast majority of students don’t think the current RA structure is accomplishing its goals, let alone worth half a million dollars. I think we could use those savings to find other ways to make Wesleyan safe and financially accessible, particularly for the students who would otherwise have taken those jobs.”
Trexler discussed the conversations between students and faculty that have occurred around the publishing of the report.
“Some of these things have already happened or have happened to some degree,” Trexler said. “Most of these are a continual, evolving process. I’ve asked [the administration] for a response to the recommendations of the Task Force. We’ve already started discussions; we had one this morning at the Student Budget Priorities meeting. I expect more [input] to come in.”
Trexler described his goals in moving forward with the Task Force’s recommendations. However, any sort of implementation may take a while, according to Trexler.
“Will the administration listen?” Trexler asked. “I think they’ll listen, but I don’t know whether anything will happen…. I have no illusions that all of this will come to pass. They are recommendations from a very specific perspective and mandate, so I think that if you put all of them up to a vote of all students, not all of them would pass, but that wasn’t our mandate at the time. I guess my job for the remaining months I have here before I graduate is to put some of them to use and get them to succeed, which will be a long process.”
Updegrove echoed Trexler’s outlook on the realization of the Task Force’s original goals.
“I hope that underclassmen and future generations of Wesleyan students will hold the administration and trustees accountable for returning to need-blind when we are able,” Updegrove wrote. “While I think most members of the community now want more equitable admissions, turnover of both staff and students might allow us to forget something we once held dear.”