The Marlboro Record

View from the Hill

Controlling the Cost of Promise

First, it is my pleasure to greet all of our Marlboro College alumni from both the undergraduate and the graduate and professional studies programs. Both campuses are now joined through shared teaching, a new visual identity, and communications like The Marlboro Record and Potash Hill. I want to start this issue of The Record with a matter of importance to all alumni, the national debate about the costs and the value of a college education. How can this college continue to assure future students that a Marlboro education is an affordable and worthwhile “investment?”

For the last three years, Marlboro’s trustees have approved tuition and fee increases for the undergraduate program consistent with the increase in the Consumer Price Index, so that costs only rose to keep pace with inflation. At the same time, the college increased its financial aid to students. This year, trustees decided not to increase tuition, room, or board at the undergraduate college at all. The college wants students and families to know we are sensitive to cost, while at the same time affirming the value of a liberal arts and sciences education and the skills learned by completing a Plan of Concentration. Meanwhile, tuition rates for the graduate programs were increased an average of 3 percent, but generally remain well below that of competitors.

How can Marlboro sustain the academic programs we value so highly at these tuition levels? Only by controlling costs in all areas. For example, over the last four years the college has conducted energy conservation studies on the undergraduate campus, followed by effective measures to insulate buildings and replace windows in the structures that leaked the most energy. Plant Operations now reports that in 2013 we used 23 percent less fossil fuel than we did in 2009.

This is also an era where institutions of higher education need to be more flexible and more willing to collaborate with each other, with the potential of controlling costs by not duplicating resources. Through the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, Marlboro participates in a semester study program—our students may study at any of the other 18 private, independent colleges in Vermont. A program like this, or like the new Windham Higher Education Cooperative described in this issue of The Marlboro Record, opens enormous opportunities for our students as well as the possibility that colleges can share curricula and conserve on expenses.

One of the largest cost-drivers in higher education is health insurance. Our provider rates went up 22 percent this year, forcing us to raise the deductible for coverage of faculty and staff. This is an unfortunate form of “cost control” that has a direct impact on employees, a situation that many nonprofits and businesses faced this year. We are fully aware that the retention of talented educators and administrators is the key to providing for the excellent education of Marlboro students, and are working to find more sustainable solutions.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Tom Friedman interviewed Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, and found that he looks for employees who have mastery in “leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and loving to learn and relearn.” These are the skills of the 21st century, and these are the “return on individual”—another form of ROI—that a Marlboro College experience promises.


Ellen McCulloch-Lovell

On April 30, President Ellen announced that she would be stepping down next year. "I know that the community will rally to support a new leader," she said. Read more details.

Please be advised that with this rather late spring issue Marlboro marks the shifting publication dates for both The Marlboro Record and Potash Hill, our alumni magazine. The latter will now appear in your mailbox in the fall and spring, while The Marlboro Record will be delivered by email in summer and winter. If we do not have your email address, please send it to the development office. In the mean time, if you want to learn about the graduating class of 2014 before coverage in Potash Hill, you can enjoy commencement transcripts, photos, and videos on our website–eds.