May 20, 2005

Dear Bowdoin Parents:

As we approach Bowdoin's 200th Commencement and the end of the 2004-05 academic year, I am writing to provide tuition and fee information for next year, as well as to offer my thoughts on the learning environment at Bowdoin.

Previous tuition announcements have been in February or March, so this letter comes to you later than usual. We shifted the calendar this year for building and approving the College's operating budget to allow for additional review and even more careful consideration of tuition, payroll, and other major budget drivers than in the past; we believe this was useful but it does mean that the Trustees have their final vote on the budget in the spring instead of at the winter meeting. We aim to provide timely communication about re-enrollment costs at the College and hope this change has not been an inconvenience to students and families.

Tuition and fees at Bowdoin College for 2005-06 are as follows:

Tuition $32,650
Room $3,900
Board(at full board rate) $4,770
Student Activities Fee $340
Total Tuition and Fees $41,660


Our charges represent an increase of 4.99% over the 2004-05 school year. This is a meaningful increase, we realize, but revenue from tuition and fees represents only 52% of Bowdoin's operating income. For each student enrolled at the College, Bowdoin provides – mostly through gifts and endowment earnings – the necessary additional resources to support an outstanding faculty, academic programs, athletics, the libraries, and the other aspects of our exceptional liberal arts experience.

Still, we recognize that the cost of education represents a challenge to many families, and we do pay close attention to our expenses. Wherever possible, we have sought efficiencies when they do not detract from the quality of a Bowdoin education. For example, in the past year, we have conducted a major study of energy use and converted our boilers to accommodate less costly fuel oil. Earlier we provided information to you about improvements to the financing of our student health plan. In information technology, we have dramatically improved services – including providing wireless Internet access campus-wide – while holding operating and equipment budgets flat. Overall, the non-payroll portion of the budget will increase by only 3.6% for next year; we continue to devote nearly 60% of our budget to wages and benefits for the faculty, librarians, coaches, counselors, and other employees who make Bowdoin College such a special place.

You may have seen or read stories this year about the tenor of political, social, and other dialogue in higher education. I want to reassure you that active debate and discussion including many perspectives is alive and well at Bowdoin.

Columbia University president Lee Bollinger spoke recently about the mission of a college to develop "the scholarly temperament" in its students – that is, the ability to hear, debate, understand, and learn from different points of view. Bollinger emphasized, correctly in my view, that it is not inappropriate for faculty members to have a perspective on their disciplines and in their classrooms. However, he also appropriately emphasized that the role of a college is to educate students to consider issues thoughtfully from all angles with independent judgment and mature review of the underlying facts.

Bowdoin is a campus characterized by passionate and, I believe, responsible debate, beginning this year with the national elections. We have very active students and faculty representing remarkably diverse points of view on politics, the environment, and all of the important issues of our time. But as Bollinger reminds us, we must remember that Bowdoin is not a political convention – it is a place to learn. Advocacy has a place on our campus, but we are fundamentally a place for students and faculty to come to learn, study, mature, and grow together in an intellectually charged environment that is not afraid or unwilling to tackle the most vexing issues.

Over the past six months among our lecturers have been Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (speaking about his experience in Iraq as administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority); Career U.S. Ambassador Tom Pickering of the Class of 1953; conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly; David Shipler (speaking about his book The Working Poor): Kenneth Pollack (speaking about U.S. alternatives in Iran); and Mark Sagoff (who challenged students on the topic "Is Environmentalism Dead?") among many others. The College is not isolated from the wider world, and we do not seek or support a limited range of visitors to Brunswick. When I receive the occasional letter questioning the diversity of views at Bowdoin, I can answer confidently that a wide range of opinions is heard by our students, challenging them, we hope, to develop and test their own informed judgments on crucial issues of the day.

I am looking forward to Commencement – our 200th – this month, in part because these members of the Class of 2005 and I arrived at the same time four years ago. We plan to give them a fine send-off, and we are celebrating many other academic and athletic successes to conclude the year. At the same time, we are already busy with next year: hiring faculty, completing the new residence halls, and gearing up for the search for a new Dean for Academic Affairs to replace the incredibly capable Craig McEwen, who will return to the faculty after a well-earned sabbatical. We broke ground last week on our long-planned renovation of the Museum of Art, and as reported in the Bowdoin Orient we will soon begin the transformation of the old Curtis Pool building into a first-rate concert hall. Finally, the long-awaited renovation of the first-year dormitories commences this summer with Hyde and Appleton Halls.

The month of May is really a wonderful one for college presidents, and this year I join you in anticipating summer and the arrival at home of a student, my oldest son, who will return from his first year of college. The weeks of summer go by quickly, and I hope you will enjoy them and whatever time you may have with your Bowdoin student. We will be continuing our work here to make sure that Bowdoin College is an even better place in 2005-06 than it was this year. Thank you for your attention to this letter, and best wishes.

Sincerely,

Barry Mills
President