Category Archives: Campus News

Five Financial Tips for Freshmen

We all know that being on your own for the first time can lead to spending temptations. Whether through mismanaged bills or adventurous desires, it’s very easy to overspend while in college. With new opportunities and new costs, first-year students often find themselves exceeding their allotted budgets. However, there is good news. By following these five easy tips, I can guarantee your success as a new financially responsible adult!

First, for those who don’t live within driving distance of campus, your biggest expense will be plane tickets. These can range anywhere from $100 to $500 one-way (even higher for international students). You should absolutely book all flights you plan on taking well before the semester begins. Not only will this help solidify your schedule, but it will also drastically reduce your costs. Let’s say for example, that I planned on flying back to St. Louis for both Fall Break and Thanksgiving. If I booked all six of my necessary flights for the fall semester right now, my estimated cost would be around $900, but if I waited to buy the tickets until the month before each trip, I would be looking at an estimated total cost of $2,400. Therefore, by simply booking flights well in advance, you can more than halve the total cost.

The second largest expense you will incur are textbooks. For those of you who don’t know, all the necessary textbooks you’ll need for your classes can be found on your school’s portal. My first rule for textbook purchasing is to NEVER buy them from the on-campus bookstore. You are likely receiving the highest possible price by buying them in the 5C bookstore even though they may tell you that the rental program is a bargain. The cheapest alternative is to purchase the least expensive “used” option on Amazon well before the semester begins. While this may be difficult to do your first semester, this policy is definitely one to adopt in the future. The Pomona College financial packet that everyone receives describing the estimated net cost of attendance lists the average textbook cost to be about $900 for the academic year. To be frank, if you’re spending more than $200 a semester on textbooks, you’re being ripped off and throwing away money. By simply using the ISBN numbers provided by your teacher on the portal, you will be able to buy the books you need on Amazon, or other third-party sales companies, for a fraction of the cost. If you buy used, and buy early, you will be able to drastically reduce your total textbook costs.

Now that the basics have been covered, let’s delve into day-to-day money-saving opportunities. First and foremost, always use all the meals you have on your meal plan before paying for meals either on or off campus–remember, you have already paid for your meal plan through your room and board payment at the beginning of the year. Every meal you don’t use is money thrown away. Make sure to use all of your meals and take a piece of fruit or other small item on your way out of the dining hall, which will serve as a “free” snack later in the day. That way you’ve made the most of your pre-paid meal plan. This may seem like simple and common sense advice, but you would be amazed how many 5C students don’t fully utilize the meals they’re allotted.

Next, limit your off-campus meals to at most one per week. I know it’s tempting to eat out frequently since the options are very enticing and the dining hall food can eventually get repetitive, but I implore you to resist. Eating out is the easiest way to see a planned budget disappear. If you allot about $10-15 per week for a meal off-campus, that sum is a very manageable monthly expense. However, even if you simply double that figure by going out twice a week, you’re looking at a monthly expense of close to $100. Use the dining halls to your advantage and make going out to eat an event to remember as opposed to simply another meal. That will augment both your experience and bank account.

Last but not least, keep a precise budget of your spending for the semester. Personally, I use an Excel spreadsheet to document my every cost, but I realize that’s probably overkill and too tedious for most college students. With that in mind, I recommend finding one of the hundreds of budgeting apps on your phone to keep track of your expenses. Just as keeping track of everything you eat will reduce the amount you consume, the same effect applies to spending. If you get into a habit of recording all your costs, you will naturally be more mindful of your budgetary needs.

These five tips will help you manage your college spending and create good habits for life outside of academia. Don’t fret if budgeting seems daunting at first. Just slowly try to implement as many of these tips as possible to reign in your costs. Using this advice, you can cut your total living expenses in half each semester and save upwards of $12,000 over the course of your undergraduate education.

 

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Image: Flickr.

News Flash, Pomona: We’re #1—And That’s a Good Thing

Pomona College was ranked #1 in Forbes magazine’s 2015 Best Colleges List, a fact that the college had proudly stated on its recently-renovated website since the ranking came out this past July. Earlier today, however, Pomona removed its Forbes ranking from the school’s official website in response to a petition that made the rounds on Facebook starting yesterday. The petition, signed by 58 of Pomona’s approximately 1,600 students, expressed concerns about the “harmful effects of college rankings” on students applying to colleges.

The statement reads, “Pressure to attend highly ranked schools can result in stress, anxiety, and unhealthy competition among students at a time when we are most in need of support, trust, and objective information.”

There are several problems with this rhetoric. First of all, most students applying to college begin their search by perusing US News and World Report, Forbes, Business Insider and other college rankings lists to get a sense for the schools that are realistic options for them given their academic credentials.  Only then do they review schools’ own websites. Even though Pomona removed its ranking from its website, the ranking is still easily accessible on Forbes’ website where students and their parents are likely to see it.

Further, removing the ranking from Pomona’s website will not change the pressure students feel to attend highly ranked colleges.  As long as these rankings exist, students will feel compelled to try to attend a highly ranked college, as these colleges (especially those on Forbes’ list) promise a higher return on students’ college investment.  Given the ever rising cost of a four-year education, this is important for all students, particularly those from low-income families or those who are paying for college without parental assistance. 

Additionally, the petition’s concerns about a lack of objective information are completely unfounded. Forbes’ rankings are based almost entirely on objective criteria: graduation rates, retention rates, graduates’ salaries, and average federal student loan debt load, for example. The only subjective data Forbes uses is student evaluations from RateMyProfessor, which constitute just 7.5% of a school’s ranking.

The petition goes on to state, “We encourage Pomona College to instead emphasize the many qualities which make it great and beloved–its community and relationships, small and rigorous classes, commitment to access, and student research and leadership opportunities. These qualities tell the story of our college far better than a single number.”

Oddly enough, these criteria are all entirely subjective. Nearly every US college brags on its website about its “community and relationships,” “rigorous classes,” and “leadership opportunities.” If these were the only criteria that schools presented to their prospective students, it would be impossible to distinguish any two colleges from one another. Forbes—and other similar rankings—use objective data to compare drastically different schools and give students the best opportunity to make a decision based on the qualities that are most important to them.

Students who don’t care about rankings—presumably the same students who signed the petition—should not care either way about how the rankings are publicized. After all, they certainly don’t take them into consideration when choosing which school to attend. But for some students—and, more importantly, for many employers—rankings are very important. The unfortunate truth is that despite Pomona’s strong academics and high ranking, it still is not a very well known school. There is a strong possibility that potential employers will not have heard of Pomona and will need to look it up when Pomona grads apply for jobs. The first hit an employer who googles Pomona College will see is Pomona’s official website. If pomona.edu lists the Forbes ranking right from the get-go, it guarantees that employers will know that Pomona is a well-respected college.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this debacle is the statement that it makes. Pomona’s removal of its ranking from the website is simply a statement that the school does not feel comfortable embracing its own success. Whether students are willing to admit it or not, college is competitive. Students compete to attend the best schools, schools compete to matriculate the best students, and employers compete to recruit graduates from the best colleges. In a competitive environment, not everyone can be a winner. Pomona should take pride in the fact that a major publication considers it to be the best college in America rather than giving in to the concerns of a handful of students who are worried that our objective success will negatively affect our vibrant and diverse community. There is no harm that can come of leaving the ranking online, but real harm could be done to Pomona graduates by failing to post the ranking. It is the responsibility of the college to do everything in its power to help its students succeed, and by removing the ranking from its website, Pomona has failed in that responsibility.

At Pomona, our culture assumes that anyone with a complaint has a legitimate grievance. This is simply not true, and it will be to the detriment of the school if we continue to allow anything that bothers even the tiniest fraction of our student body to be banned.

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Photography by Wes Edwards.

Coming This Fall: Changes to RDS

Much like the distraught Prince Hamlet, nearly every CMC sophomore has hit an existential fork in the road: to RDS, or not to RDS? Okay, so perhaps that is overstating it, but the underlying sentiment is there. At one point or another, the thought of applying to the prestigious Robert Day Scholars (RDS) program has entered the minds of many CMC students, and the program has had an increasingly influential presence on campus. President Hiram Chodosh and Mr. Robert Day (CMC ’65) have recently discussed ways to improve the program, which resulted in the Chodosh administration’s introduction of a new “RDS Amendment” that will be discussed at the first CMC faculty meeting this fall.

On July 13, 2015, in a CMC faculty-wide email, President Chodosh and newly appointed Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin laid out the three goals of the RDS Amendment. First, the amendment will create an Administrative Director position to streamline the internal and external workings of the program. Michelle Chamberlain, the current RDS Director of External Relations, was temporarily appointed to this position for the summer. Second, the amendment refocuses the program’s attention to CMC and other Claremont College students by allowing the program to no longer recruit MA students from outside the Claremont Colleges.

The third change is perhaps the most consequential for students (at least, directly). The amendment permits the program to “admit Robert Day Scholars at any point in their CMC academic cycle” and creates more flexibility in “the design of the monetary level, the timing of the awards, and how they may be tied to the productivity of the scholars.” In an interview with The Claremont Independent, Michelle Chamberlain explained that right now the scholarship is given only in a scholar’s senior year. So even though scholars are selected as sophomores, they are not given their monetary award until two years later. Chamberlain suggested that the amendment could potentially create a distribution structure for how the scholarship is awarded over time. For instance, the award can be distributed in a scholar’s sophomore, junior, and senior years, and some of those distributions could be tied to something concrete, like starting an enterprise or funding a research opportunity. She emphasized, however, that everything is still in flux, and this is only one potential option for how to redesign the awards.

When asked why this third change in particular is being made, Chamberlain responded that the college is interested in making sure that the RDS program gives students the transformative experience that Mr. Day originally sought to provide. After donating $200 million––one of the largest single recorded gifts in liberal arts college history––to establish the RDS program in 2007, Mr. Day, the founder and former chairman of Trust Company of the West, said that he attributes much of his business success to his transformative CMC experience and that the program is his way of giving back.

The faculty committee created to work on the amendment has only met twice, and the RDS staff has only met once, so a lot more work needs to be done before any of these changes are finalized. For now, the administration has encouraged CMC professors to share their thoughts and suggestions for the amendment. Stay tuned for more updates this fall.

Just The Facts: Pitzer College Tuition

With the current tuition increase rate at 5% per year, babies born this year (class of 2037) can expect to pay $156,671 per year—$626,685 over four years—for an undergraduate degree from Pitzer College. As a result, Pitzer students are left wondering, “where does my tuition go, and why has the tuition increased?” As a non-profit institution, Pitzer is not required to divulge its yearly financial audits. Fortunately, Pitzer used its discretion to post its audits from the past decade on its website. Understanding those audits can provide insight as to where the extra money is going.

The political and educational climate has changed immensely since Pitzer’s founding in 1963. Federal laws that impact the finances of institutions of higher education are constantly being created and amended. For example, Title IX wasn’t enacted until 1972, and the Clery Act has been amended 7 times since its inception in 1990. Additionally, more recent instances of regulation include Student Health Insurance and the Affordable Care Act. Presumably, these laws were passed with the best intentions for students attending college in America, and the debate about whether or not they are worth the costs is for a different article. This article will only seek to describe Pitzer College’s budget and the effects of new regulations on the increased cost of tuition.

For a college to remain accredited and in full compliance with the law, the administration of any four-year institution is required to keep a series of records and follow various regulations regarding, for example, pay, benefits, and equal opportunity. Consequently, these record keeping and associated costs are unavoidable for any institution seeking to demonstrate compliance with federal regulations. If a college is not compliant with, say, the Clery Act, possible consequences include a suspension of the institution’s Title IV funding, civil fines up to $38,500 per violation, and reputational loss due to negative media attention. Further, failure to comply with the Clery Act can be used in various litigation matters.

As new regulations are introduced, the extra paperwork and record keeping requires Pitzer to add more staff to its administration—a costly change. According to a recent study by Pitzer’s Institutional Research Board, Pitzer increased the size of its administration staff from 169 individuals to 217 (a 28% increase) between 2001 and 2014.

An additional factor contributing to Pitzer’s increased costs is the lower student-faculty ratio. A school’s student-faculty ratio is an important factor included in US News & World Report’s annual rankings of American colleges. As such, since the start of the 21st century, Pitzer has worked to reduce its student-faculty ratio—which includes only tenure and tenure-track faculty—from 13:1 to 10:1. As the size of the student body increased with the building of new dorms (from 937 students in 2001 to 1076 in 2014, a 15% increase), the number of tenure and tenure-track faculty increased from 59 to 79, a 34% increase. The total number of faculty members (including those who are neither tenured nor tenure-track) increased by 55% from 74 in 2001 to 115 in 2014.

The exact salaries of professors and members of the administration are confidential, but data from The Chronicle of Higher Education found the tenure and tenure track salaries at Pitzer College to be $115,00 per year at the high end in 2014 . The Chronicle also reported that administrative salaries ranged from $30,000 per year for service workers to $167,000 for high-end management positions during the 2013-2014 academic year. A complete breakdown of the budget can be found in the corresponding infographic.

While the data presented in the graphic may answer the question of, “what does my tuition pay for?” it hardly gives the reason for the increase in tuition. Various college expenses can be placed in different categories from year to year depending on a change in auditing guidelines. Part of the answer to the question of why Pitzer’s tuition has nearly quadrupled in the past 35 years is that the college is “nicer.” In the past ten years alone, Pitzer constructed a new pool, built brand-new LEED certified dorms, a new student gym, and has turned McConnell into one of the highest-rated dining halls in the country. The “Phase Two” dorms cost Pitzer $33 million to complete, while the construction of the student gym and other updates to the Gold Student Center cost the college an additional $7 million. On average, each category of Pitzer’s expenses has increased by 83% over the last decade, with a corresponding student revenue growth of 88%.

According to Paul F. Campos’ recent article in the New York Times, nationwide, enrollment in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs has increased by almost 50% since 1995. Campos reported that while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher than they were when Pitzer was founded in the 1960s, the cost of tuition has increased by a CPI-adjusted 1,120% since 1978. It cost around $1,300 to attend a top private college in the ’60s. Today, Pitzer charges $46,992 for full-time tuition ($61,750 including room and board) a 40% increase from $28,256 in 2003. Subsequently, Pitzer is the 15th-most expensive college in the country. Given the recent increases in spending on academic and administrative staff, along with construction projects, it appears that the 88% increase in student revenue over the last decade adds up. If the current trend continues, tuition will rise to unthinkable numbers, just as our current tuition is unfathomable to those who attended and paid for a Pitzer College education at its founding.

Religion in Retreat at the 5Cs

It won’t shock anyone to hear that college is not a religion-friendly place. According to the McAlister Center here on campus, “The Perception on many liberal arts campuses across the country is that there is less support for the religious and spiritual identities of students and that it can be difficult for students to ‘out’ themselves as religiously identified. Students describe their experiences both in the classroom and in the social settings as often being difficult if they talk about their faith or even are identified/perceived to be of a particular faith by what they wear, how they look, or their name.”

1891FoundersSeal
Pomona College’s original seal.

Secular institutions dominate the higher education scene, and with that comes a difficult line to walk: balancing the needs of religious students against the secular identity of the college. Some do this better than others. California State University schools “derecognized” the CSU Stanislaus Chi Alpha chapter, also known as the Stanislaus Christian Fellowship (a part of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship), this past fall, denying it the free access to rooms, access to student activity programs (including student fairs), and standing across their 23 schools that every other student organization receives. The universities based the decision on the claim that InterVarsity violated school policy by requiring the group’s leaders to be Christians. “What they cannot be is faith-based where someone has to have a profession of faith to be that leader,” CSUS Associate Vice President Tim Lynch told CBS Sacramento. “Every club is allowed to establish its own standards for how leaders are selected – as long as its non discriminatory – and then they are voted on by the members. Fraternities and sororities must comply with all the requirements there of but there is a gender exemption [sic throughout].”

Besides the obvious logical issue of how one can, well, discriminate between potential club leaders without being “discriminatory,” the fact of the matter is that religion, as a standard, is targeted. One level of categorization, gender, is acceptable but religious affiliation is not. With this outright religious discrimination by the official University administration as a context, the 5Cs look downright reverent.

The lineup of religious resources has changed significantly over the history of the 5Cs. Generally, the religious options have multiplied and diversified from a core of Christian services to what is available today. The McAlister Center provides a significant chunk of the options. It conducts Zen meditation times, Church of the Latter-Day Saints services, Quaker Friends meetings, Shabbat service and dinner, Catholic mass, and Jum’ah prayer every week. There are 21other organizations on campus which offer their own services, large group meetings, lecture series, and even publications. They range from the Claremont Colleges Bahá’í Club to Queers of Faith to the Muslim Student Association to Hillel to P.A.G.A.N. (Prayers About Gods and Nature) to the Soka Gakkai Budhists to the Hindu Society to the 5C Spirituality Club. All are listed on the McAlister website. Members of these groups even arrange small groups meetings that exist outside the range of the club and, of course, there are the non-school institutions like the Islamic Center of Claremont, the St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, and the Wat Bhuridattavanaram.

Throughout this expansion, the 5Cs have repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to serving the religious, as well as non-religious, students on campus. Judy Sahak, who now runs Denison Library and previously attended Scripps, told the CI in an interview that “[t]here have been several occasions when the council of Presidents… or CUC… have questioned the need for the chaplains but it has prevailed.” However, the official mantra of expansion and diversification has been accompanied by a distinct pressure from the 5C community for religious groups to recede from the discourse on campus in the interest of tolerance.

Part of this is from the campuses’ general avoidance of straightforward, possibly offensive dialogue. Minority opinions and experiences go undiscussed because it could discomfort others and the pain of accounting for all potential offense is too much trouble. This intolerance in the name of tolerance clearly cuts down discourse, particularly for students who are genuinely experiencing emotional distress on campus. Religion happens to be a topic labelled by popular campus culture as potentially offensive so issues relating to it go widely undiscussed in mixed circles. The result is a growing, but insulated religious community.

Michael Stalcup, a leader of the Intervarsity chapter that serves CMC, Scripps, and Mudd (3CIV) cited the 5Cs as a remarkably safe space for religious observances compared to other institutions of higher education. But he also spoke of the changing definition and acceptability of proselytizing on campus. Stalcup rightly pointed out that “proselytizing” used to mean genuinely coercive forms of conversion, like offering food to a starving child only when they agree to follow your doctrine. Now, the definition has shifted to mean simply evangelizing. So policies against proselytizing, like that of the McAlister Center, mean something different today than when they were created. The distinction between rejecting religious oppression and oppressing religious discourse is a precarious one.

The intensity of secular hostility has shot up only recently. Sahak recalled that “until about the mid-2000s, one of the [5C] chaplains came to [the Scripps] commencement and gave an invocation.” This is reflective of a wider pattern across liberal arts colleges. According to the McAlister Center, “The research indicates that there is more religious bigotry and intolerance on the college campuses as well, especially in recent months.”

The McAlister Center told the CI that, while “[t]here are vibrant, enthusiastic, diverse religious groups and widely inclusive religious/spiritual observances ranging from a variety of religious/spiritual clubs through McAlister Center and in the greater community… there have been painful and demeaning acts and expressions of religious bigotry and prejudice on campus which reflects growing trends of anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, and negative views of Christians, Hindus, and other religious people. The Administrations of the Colleges have been concerned and responsive to these behaviors, but this does not always resolve the fears and concerns some students are experiencing.”

That being said, the 5Cs are in a much better position than most secular colleges. The McAlister Center is a powerful resource for students who are religious or want to explore existential questions. Nearly all services provided by McAlister or the 21 other organizations on the campuses are open to all comers. It’s up to the community at large, students and faculty, to encourage open and honest conversation, to wear down the divide between secular and religious conversations.