Trustees, who met Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, agreed to reconvene on Jan. 13 to vote on the measures aimed at restoring Wilson’s fiscal health by significantly increasing enrollment and strengthening programs and facilities.
“This is an important decision that will affect the future direction of Wilson College, and the Board of Trustees takes this responsibility very seriously,” said John Gibb, chair of the board of trustees. “Our intention is to review and analyze all of the material to enable the board to give greater consideration to the information presented, before charting a course for the financial well-being and academic health of the institution.”
The board met to vote on a proposal from Wilson President Barbara K. Mistick, which includes reducing tuition and creating an innovative student loan buyback program; strengthening existing majors and adding a number of new academic programs, including several in the health sciences; making facilities and infrastructure improvements; and expanding coeducation across all programs.
Mistick's proposal was based on a set of recommendations from the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College — a panel made up of faculty, alumnae, trustees, students and staff — began meeting last spring to examine options for improving the college’s academic and fiscal health. The commission was charged with developing ideas for creating the “optimum scenario” for the future of the college.
Wilson, like many small colleges today, is looking for ways to improve enrollment and achieve solid financial footing. Given the magnitude of the decision before it, the board — unanimous in its commitment to see Wilson be successful — opted for more time to consider the data generated by the commission.
The commission process came about in response to operational deficits in three of the last four years and nearly $31 million in total debt and $10 million in deferred maintenance. Principal payments on a multimillion dollar bond will begin in 2018.
A total of 695 students are currently enrolled at Wilson. The total average enrollment from fiscal 2003 through 2012 — including the College for Women, Adult Degree Program and graduate programs — was 763 students.
The Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College — chaired by Leslie Durgin, a 1969 Wilson College graduate and member of the Wilson Board of Trustees — began work in May. It was comprised of five subcommittees, studying programs, markets, pricing and finance, quality of life, and college success stories. Committees met extensively over the summer and through the fall to study a wide range of information from relevant sources.
The group held a series of open campus meetings from September through November to present data and gather additional feedback before presenting its final strategic ideas to the president on Nov. 12. Mistick reviewed and refined the plan now under consideration by the board of trustees.