BRISTOL, R.I. – As part of a comprehensive strategy for confronting the most pressing challenges facing higher education in America – increasing costs that limit access to college; rising student and family debt; and the job readiness of graduates – Roger Williams University launched the Affordable Excellence initiative on October 24, 2012.
University President Donald J. Farish shared details at his annual State of the University address, invoking questions he raised during his Inaugural Address in October 2011 on how to create “affordable excellence” in higher education. His words yesterday served as a call to action – directed to both Roger Williams University and to America’s colleges and universities more broadly.
“Ten years ago, it was inconceivable that our political leaders, national media outlets and students and families across the country would question the worth of a college degree,” Dr. Farish said. “But America has stated very clearly that it requires higher education to be both more effective and more affordable. While our natural inclination may be to go into hibernation and wait for the storm to pass, doing so would only prolong the inevitable – we need sustainable solutions, and we need them quickly.”
In describing the Affordable Excellence initiative at Roger Williams University, Dr. Farish outlined four key action items that comprise the heart of the undertaking, each to take effect immediately:
(1) Building on its academic foundation, Roger Williams University will evolve and expand upon the value of its academic experience by (a) encouraging all students to take advantage of the University’s academic diversity by majoring and minoring in a combination of liberal arts and professional programs; and (b) ensuring that all graduates, irrespective of major, emerge with at least one meaningful example of experiential, project-based learning.
(2) For all undergraduate day students, Roger Williams University will implement a tuition freeze for the 2013-14 academic year, which means that next year’s enrolled students will pay the same tuition rate as this year’s students.
(3) For all undergraduate day students currently enrolled and for those who enter in the 2013-14 incoming class, a tuition guarantee will be implemented immediately. The tuition rate each student pays now (for current students) or upon arrival to RWU next fall will be guaranteed not to increase for four years, for all students who remain continuously enrolled.
(4) Both within the Roger Williams University community and in the broader public realm, Dr. Farish will initiate a dialogue during the current academic year on access to and affordability of college – with a specific emphasis on higher education’s approach to tuition rates, pricing structures and financial aid – and how schools can best prepare students for long-term, sustainable post-collegiate careers.
The objectives will be to create an open discussion on the high cost/high aid model used by most private colleges and universities (which Dr. Farish says cannot be sustained in the years ahead); to explore alternative cost/aid strategies for potential implementation at the University; and to identify and implement ways to build upon the value of a Roger Williams University education by expanding the RWU commitment to project-based learning, increasing internships, integrating career planning more fully, expanding student/faculty research and more.
The Affordable Excellence initiative follows the University’s decision earlier this year to make the submission of standardized test results (SAT, ACT) optional for admission and to focus on a more holistic approach to recruiting students who demonstrate the potential for success through qualities beyond those measured by test scores, class rank and high school GPA alone.
Through the Affordable Excellence initiative and the potential changes to the University’s cost/aid structure that may result in the future, Dr. Farish expects Roger Williams to play a lead role in confronting the very real concerns that students and families have about access, affordability, debt and career preparation.
“Roger Williams University cannot single-handedly rectify the challenges facing the entire higher education enterprise,” Dr. Farish said. “But we can do the right thing by our own students and their families by controlling our costs, limiting debt and ensuring that our graduates have the skills necessary not only to obtain a well-paying job in a bleak economy, but to lead a successful and fulfilling life.”
More information on the Affordable Excellence initiative is available via the Roger Williams University website. Or read the introductory post on the President’s Blog, authored by Dr. Farish and launched on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012.