Reality at Mary Baldwin University Belies Conclusions of Lumina Foundation Report

January 4, 2002

Like all but 78 out of about 1700 private colleges and universities in the United States, Mary Baldwin University has been named “unaffordable” by a Lumina Foundation report, “Unequal Opportunity: Disparities of College Access Among the 50 States,” which will be released to the public on Monday, January 7, 2002. But Mary Baldwin’s efforts to attract and retain a student body that is diverse socio-economically, racially, and in terms of student age have been overwhelmingly successful. The college’s increased enrollment (more than 20% in on-campus undergraduate programs alone in the last decade) coupled with this diversity belies the Lumina Foundation’s “unaffordable” label.

Of the undergraduate student body, 29% are Americans of color. About 40% are first generation college students. About 23% would be classified by Lumina as “low-income” based on family income, and an additional 49% would fall at or below the “median income” level. Certainly, if Mary Baldwin were truly unaffordable for low- and median-income students, they would not make up over 70% of its student body.

Last year (2000-2001), out of a total budget of about $27.3 million, Mary Baldwin University spent $5.3 million – a little less than 20% of the total budget – on student aid. This year (2001-2002), 73% received need-based aid with an average aid package of $20,613. Since the comprehensive fee (tuition, room, board and fees) is $23,440, the average paid by students with financial need is $2,827, or only 12% of the sticker price. Students with higher than average need, of course, received even more support. Mary Baldwin does, indeed, make college affordable for minority students, low-income students, and first-generation college students.

As is the case across the country, most Mary Baldwin students who receive financial aid also take out student loans as part of their aid package. They realize that attending the college that is right for them will significantly increase their lifelong earning potential as well as quality of life. Like buying a home with a mortgage, financing a college education with loans as well as grants is a smart investment.

“The goal of the of the report seems to be to encourage states and the higher education community to work harder to make college accessible for all capable students, and that’s a worthy thing,” comments Crista Cabe, Baldwin’s associate vice president for college relations. “But I am afraid it will have the opposite effect: It may cause low- and middle-income students to write off the colleges that would best suit them, without even investigating what resources are available.”

David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), takes issue with the methodology and assumptions of the Lumina study in a statement distributed to the press on January 2. For more information about NAICU’s position, contact Tony Pals ator (202) 785-8866.

Mary Baldwin University, with a main campus in Staunton, VA and five regional centers, excels in providing leadership training, character development and career preparation with a strong academic foundation. A multi-faceted liberal arts college, Mary Baldwin offers three residential programs for women – the Traditional Program for Women, the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership – as well as coeducational, non-residential bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Mary Baldwin offers the B.A. and/or the B.S. in 32 majors, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) with K-8 emphasis, the Master of Letters (M.Litt.) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance, and post-graduate teaching licensure (PGTL). The oldest women’s college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Mary Baldwin was founded in 1842 and was the first women’s college to be granted a circle of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. It is one of only 262 colleges and universities to shelter a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society.