Trustees raise tuition 4.9 percent

by Dax Tejera | 3/7/05 6:00am

The Dartmouth Board of Trustees approved a 4.9-percent tuition increase at its winter meeting, which concluded Sunday. The trustees also reviewed progress on the College's ongoing facilities upgrades, capital campaign and federally mandated affirmative action plan.

The 4.9-percent increase, which affects undergraduates and graduate students in the arts and sciences and students at the Thayer School of Engineering, will bring undergraduate tuition for the 2005-2006 academic year to $31,770. With room, board and mandatory fees, the sum totals $41,355.

The trustees approved a 4.5-percent increase for the Dartmouth Medical School and a 5.5-percent increase for students at the Tuck School of Business

The tuition increase was the only fiscal action taken by the trustees, although they reviewed a preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In an interview with The Dartmouth, College President James Wright said the Board received the review positively.

"The Board obviously is pleased at the growing financial strength of the College," Wright said. "We clearly are not out of the woods, though."

William Neukom '64, the Board's chair, praised the College's senior budget staff for their efforts in putting together a thorough and comprehensive budgetary report.

"The Board is impressed with the work of the senior staff on the budget," Neukom said. "They do a particularly professional job."

The trustees spent lunch Saturday with Palaeopitus senior society discussing issues of student concern.

Students "honestly talked about things we might do better," Wright said.

When asked if the trustees met any of the conversation with surprise, Wright said they did not.

"The Board does stay informed of the issues on campus," Wright said. "They're not out of touch with what it is that students are doing today and what students care about -- but they don't feel so in touch that they don't want to sit down and have conversations with students."

Neukom said trustees asked Palaeopitus members what they liked about the Dartmouth experience, what they would have wanted differently, whether they would recommend Dartmouth to a sibling and whether the students had heard of a better undergraduate experience from their peers.

"The responses to all of those were uniformly positive," Neukom said.

The trustees also met with the Student Assembly leadership on related matters.

Other business over the weekend included approving Dartmouth's affirmative action plan for 2005, required by law because of the federal funds received by the College. Ozzie Harris, special assistant to the president for institutional diversity and equity, submitted the plan and briefed the trustees on the College's progress in recruiting women and persons of color to Dartmouth's faculty and staff.

"Dartmouth has done well," Wright said. "But none of us are satisfied with where we are."

Provost Barry Scherr briefed the Board on the facilities projects underway on campus. The trustees also empowered Scherr to begin a selection process for an architect to design a life sciences center near the medical school, affirming the plan to provide teaching, laboratory and office space for the biological sciences and medical school.

"There's a sense of prudent urgency on the Board about these facilities plans," Neukom said, adding that the trustees were particularly "delighted" that dormitory construction had begun.

The Board also reviewed plans for the renovation of Alumni Gym's mechanical systems and the expansion of the Kresge Fitness Center. Both projects are scheduled to begin in April.

Carolyn Pelzel, vice president for development, presented the board with a $522.4 million sum of gifts and pledges to the College's capital campaign. Neukom said the Board met the report with enthusiasm.

"I think it was very encouraging -- even a bit above expectations," Neukom said, acknowledging there was still much work to be done as the fundraising process continues.

"We have a very good story to tell about Dartmouth. The challenge is in telling that story in a compelling way to folks who are willing to invest in their alma mater," Neukom said, adding that Wright had a "gift" for fundraising for the College.

The weekend marked Neukom's third meeting as Board chair. He said the new Board structure adopted since he assumed office continues to feel like a "step in the right direction."

He said that the Board's two working groups, regarding matters of alumni relations and academic excellence, have concluded gathering information and are now beginning an analytic process in preparation for recommendations to the Board, expected to start in June.

"The alumni relations working group is really aiming at trying to find ways to improve the way in which the Board and alumni understand and communicate with each other," Wright said. He added that the academic excellence group is committed to means by which the Board can strengthen the faculty and offer additional support.

Neukom described the trustee meeting as "a very full weekend in a hurry" and said there was an absence of contention during the weekend agenda.

The trustees were spread about campus Saturday evening at a variety of athletic events and performing arts shows. Wright said that spending time with students was an essential element of the trustees' weekend.

"The Board members are able to go away knowing that the tremendous amount of time that they give to Dartmouth as Board members," Wright said, "is well worth it because of the wonderful strength of Dartmouth -- and the best way to sample that is to spend time with students and faculty."

Neukom shared the importance of integrating with the Dartmouth community.

"It's useful to have examples in front of you to remind you why you want to help steward this remarkable place," Neukom said.

The trustees will next meet during Commencement weekend, June 10 to 12, where they will approve the budget and bid farewell to outgoing trustee Jonathan Newcomb '68.