Westmont Magazine College Costs
“Why is Westmont so expensive?” Every parent of a Westmont student must ask this question at some point. In response, I want to raise three additional questions: What does it cost to provide a Westmont education? What does Westmont charge for this experience? What do families pay?
As a college, we spend nearly 50 percent of our budget on compensation. Education is a labor-intensive enterprise, especially at Westmont where we expect faculty and staff to get involved in students’ lives. While we’re always striving for greater efficiency and productivity, we’re unwilling to decrease the personal attention our students receive. Full-time faculty teach 90 percent of our classes, and 88 percent of professors hold terminal degrees. An impressive 46 percent have achieved the rank of full professor, meaning they are experienced teachers and acknowledged scholars. Our 13/1 student/faculty ratio is the lowest of any Christian college. These statistics demonstrate the high-quality, personalized education we offer.
Keeping up with the latest technology represents a significant expense. To be educated today requires familiarity with advances like the Internet. Furnishing classrooms and science labs with new equipment and providing innovative learning resources helps us offer a first-rate program.
Maintaining a beautiful campus and aging physical plant also adds to our cost. Last summer we spent more than $400,000 renovating just one residence hall.
Operating a college in Santa Barbara is a challenge. Not only does it cost a lot to live in this area, but it’s expensive to comply with local regulations. One such restriction limits cars on campus, which means we must operate a shuttle service for our students.
The 1,200 cap on enrollment means we are unable to increase revenue by growing. Instead, we must rely on gifts and endowment income to support our increasing quality. Unfortunately, we are a relatively young institution with little endowment. The other national liberal arts colleges in California have an average endowment per student 25 times greater than Westmont’s. At $17 million, our endowment provides only minimal support. We need at least $350 million in endowment to catch up with similar liberal arts colleges like Pomona and Occidental.
While annual gifts to the college have increased steadily, they provide only 5 percent of our operating income. We’re heavily dependent on tuition.
Parents may be surprised to learn that tuition and fees don’t cover the total cost of educating students. This year, we are charging about $2,300 less per student than we spend on our program. Gifts, endowment income, and revenues from summer conferences and other auxiliary operations help close this gap.
How does Westmont’s tuition compare to the charges at other national liberal arts colleges in California? Despite comparable increases the last few years, Westmont still charges less than peer institutions in the state. Because of our careful management, we can offer a high-quality program and still charge less tuition despite our small endowment.
Because of the tuition gap, no family pays for the entire cost of a Westmont education. In addition, about 88 percent of our students receive some kind of financial aid based on demonstrated need or merit. No-interest loans and grants make up the bulk of this assistance. Our financial aid office works closely with students and parents to help them meet the cost of attending Westmont.
While we’re located in an affluent suburb, Westmont isn’t wealthy. But the college is financially sound. With careful budgeting, we’ve reinvested 18 straight years of operating surpluses in campus facilities and building a reserve. With four applicants for each student opening, three months of operating expenses in reserve and accounts payable that are current, we are in good shape. Building our endowment will make us even stronger.
Perhaps the question should be, “Why doesn’t Westmont cost more?” I pledge to keep operating the college prudently without sacrificing the quality we have achieved.