December 4, 2013
Generosity that Matters: A message from Kevin Weinman, CFO
Dear Amherst Parents,
It is a great privilege to serve you as Amherst’s Chief Financial Officer. Since my arrival six months ago, I have enjoyed learning from you and Amherst’s world-class faculty, students and staff. These interactions have confirmed what I already knew to be true, that Amherst occupies a unique and enviable position in the crowded world of higher education.
A common question I hear concerns Amherst’s affordability. Recently, Amherst has been lauded in studies and press reports for its extraordinary commitment to access and affordability. Several rank Amherst “most affordable” and “best value.” Yet Amherst’s comprehensive fee charge continues to rise. How can these both be true?
Amherst’s financial aid offerings are among the most competitive of any college or university. Twenty-five years ago, Amherst’s financial aid totaled 20% of its gross comprehensive fees; last year it approached 44%. Amherst’s “net tuition” – total comprehensive fee less total financial aid – has remained exactly flat to general inflation since 2000. Students on aid pay less in nominal dollars today compared to 2006. On an inflation-adjusted basis, they pay about 21% less than they did in 2000.
While Amherst’s generous financial aid allows us to admit among the most vibrant and diverse students, we realize Amherst’s comprehensive fee can represent a heavy burden on those families not qualifying for need-based aid. Amherst’s budgeted cost per student for 2013-14 is about $90,000, well in excess of the comprehensive fee. Amherst’s commitment to families of every background means its comprehensive fee is discounted for all students by about thirty-five percent, whether students receive aid or not.
The College’s dual commitments to quality and access come at no small cost. Amherst keeps its classroom sizes small, relies upon full-time tenure-track faculty rather than adjuncts, and sensibly upgrades its academic and student facilities. The College also responds to increasing costs by vigorously limiting expenditures. Generous gifts to the endowment in recent years and responsible endowment management have led to impressive growth (including investment returns well above market indices and a distribution policy that directs a relatively low percentage of the endowment annually to the operating budget).
Generosity from Amherst’s alumni, parents, and friends makes all of this possible. Balancing our longer-term investments, your support of the Parents’ Fund allows Amherst to fund its immediate priorities, including student life, faculty-student research, and financial aid, as it plans for the future. Thank you for making your gift this year and supporting our current students.
Kevin C. Weinman
Chief Financial Officer