As you may have noticed, higher education is in the hot seat these days as policy makers and journalists hash and re-hash theories that might explain — but not justify, certainly — the rising cost of a college degree and the adequacy of that investment’s return.
While it is true that Willamette has been unable to avoid increases in tuition, we have also sought strategies to improve the affordability of a Willamette education. Nearly all of our undergraduates receive some form of merit- or need-based financial assistance from the university. Recently, at what appeared to be a low point in the economic downturn, Willamette offered incoming students and their families access to an interest-free loan that, if the student completed her or his degree in four years and maintained a 3.0 GPA or better, would be forgiven at graduation.
We are mindful of the cost of a Willamette degree and are concerned about access, affordability and student debt, but we also know there is intrinsic value in what Willamette delivers — in how we prepare our students for lives of achievement and contribution — and that delivering a liberal arts education in a student-focused and intimate learning environment is not inexpensive. We remember every day the Willamette alumni and friends who have contributed annual and endowed gifts to support our current and future students.
One strength of the Willamette experience is the opportunity for rigorous selfexamination and vocational discernment; the distillation of values and passions from which a meaningful life — including a career — may be divined. We seek to foster in every Willamette graduate the ability to transform knowledge into action, a critical skill for the modern age.
This issue of The Scene addresses this formative process by examining contemporary issues related to ethnic studies; it also revisits the tenure of a former professor from the early 1950s who inspired students but pushed the limits of conventional thinking at the same time. Enjoy.
Stephen E. Thorsett
“One strength of the Willamette experience is the opportunity for rigorous self-examination.”