By Colton Williams
While every Sewanee class signs the honor code, the University has made its own pledge to the class of 2022. Starting with the admissions season of this year’s class, the University has pledged to provide funding for a summer internship or research opportunity, grant access to a semester-long study abroad program at no additional cost in tuition, and states that all students will graduate in four years with one major, or Sewanee will foot the bill for a tuition-free fifth year.
The caveat with the new Sewanee Pledge is that the current entering class has not been given the guarantee of no increase in tuition for four years, as have previous classes. Vice-Chancellor John McCardell emphasized that this was not a way of playing “shell games” or trying to hide the new guarantees behind a tuition increase, but was instead a necessary step as the University has reached the end of a period of growth.
“This grew out of a discussion we were having about positioning the university vis-a-vis the competition, so that a student might choose to look at us who otherwise wouldn’t,” McCardell said. “We were also looking at not only recruitment, but retention and graduation rates, and if as a result of this pledge we could attract strong students, that would be good for the University and good for the students.”
In addition, the pledge aims to solidify Sewanee’s educational goals and the value it places on its students’ success. The pledge has also been helpful in marketing to potential students, according to Ryan Cassell, Director of Admission.
“It’s something that we’re really excited about,” said Cassell. “The prospective students and their families seem to be receiving it quite well.”
Klarke Stricklen (C’22) said that the Sewanee pledge was very influential in her decision to commit to Sewanee. “I wanted to go somewhere where I could further my education abroad and graduate in a timely manner without the thought of added costs,” Stricklen said.
Firstly, Sewanee pledges that a student with one major who does everything expected, including passing classes, registering on time, meeting with an adviser, and maintaining satisfactory social conduct, that student will graduate in four years.
“Often we take for granted at Sewanee that four years of college is just what you’re supposed to do,” Cassell said. “But a lot of our families are also looking at schools where you can’t take that for granted.”
Secondly, should students seek and apply for a summer internship or research experience that is unpaid, the University will provide that funding. This part of the pledge is being funded through the current Stronger Truer Sewanee capital campaign.
Finally, financial aid will be portable to students studying abroad. “The change that we have made addresses what I think has been an issue, if not a problem, for many years,” said McCardell.
“We charge the Sewanee fee for Sewanee credits to study abroad, so ‘why isn’t my financial aid portable?’ I’ve never been able to answer that question to my own satisfaction, let alone to a family’s satisfaction,” McCardell explained.
According to McCardell, the money for that aspect of the pledge will become available in the class of 2022’s junior year, and not until then.
“If a family is now facing what families at most other institutions face already, which is a likely increase in tuition from year to year,” McCardell said, “it seems to me that there ought to be some sort of offsetting commensurate benefit for that.”
The University hopes that the benefit of the pledge provides adequate consideration for the possibility of tuition increase, as well as satisfy current students who do have that previous promise but are not a part of the pledge.
“It’s simple, it’s straightforward, I hope it’s unambiguous, and for that reason it is easily described for prospective students and I hope easily understood,” McCardell said of the pledge. “And if that’s the case, we’ll know soon enough.”