Drew University’s mission statement claims that it is devoted to its students, and that it is determined to foster the best liberal and social education it can for its small body of students. Salamon’s chapter on education states that, due to the economic downturn of 2008 and beyond, small, private liberal arts colleges in particular are taking a hit financially. While Drew has met its standard for students, Drew has downsized over recent years. The school has become less selective academically, but students here are aware that there are less than the standard quota of students on campus during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. Students and their families have taken a hit financially and can no longer afford a $60,000 per academic year education, and Drew wants to make its education as financially available to potential students as possible. However, with tuition climbing each and every year and financial aid being given to less people less often, it has become nearly impossible for most to attend without taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans or by, unfortunately, transferring after their first year.
Drew’s strategic plan also claims that it wants to make its students as financially able as possible to attend the student-driven university, and to improve our institutional and financial sustainability. We are failing. What may seem glaringly obvious to any Drew professor or student is that the largest issue students face is a financial one. As previously stated, practically no one can afford Drew without taking out loans or transferring at some point or another. Unfortunately, students are often led into Drew with a great financial package: merit scholarships, civic engagement scholarships, and a “fabulous” grant offer. While some students do not qualify for aid from the FAFSA, they may receive a grant from the university. Often this grant is not offered again the next academic year, and so these students suddenly need to come up with $10,000 to come back. Not only do students face the stress of fighting their way through their piles of work, but fighting to keep afloat because they are drowning in a pool of financial misery. Faculty and staff are often not paid much at all (despite their Ivy League alma mater and various doctoral degrees), and it makes students wonder where their money has gone and/or where it is going to. Oftentimes (and currently) the board of trustees consists of various benefactors to the university, people who have made significant contributions to the community of and surrounding the school and/or have made large donations of money to the university. Students view these people as a Godsend as they are helping us to better afford what we are paying for, our education while they assist us with educational resources. However, if our money isn’t going to our professors (and we all know it’s definitely not going to the food) then where is it going? Is it going to the $40,000 per month electric bill of the DoYo? Is it going to all of the shrubbery planted before 2013’s Alumni & Family weekend or the spectacular fireworks display?
We’ve expanded many educational programs, such as our CBL’s (also mentioned in the strategic plan), and the campus as a whole is passionate about civic and social engagement. We’ve also brought the Forest to the City and vice versa, and do an excellent job of having a presence in the local community (i.e. Madison and Morristown), so this section of the plan in particular has been successful. However, one of our top priorities needs to be making this once prestigious education affordable to the students who have worked for it. Drew needs to prepare its students for a life of service, leadership, and success instead of preparing them for future financial instability.