MIDDLEBURY, Vt.  – The Middlebury College Board of Trustees last week approved a 2.7 percent increase in the college’s comprehensive fee for the 2013-2014 academic year, adhering to its guideline of limiting the increase of attending the college to no more than 1 percentage point above inflation. Next year’s comprehensive fee, which includes tuition plus room and board, will be $57,075, compared with $55,570 for the current year.

The board also approved an increase in the student activities fee to $395. The fee has been unchanged at $380 for the last four years.

The total of the comprehensive fee and the student activities fee for 2013-2014 is $57,470.

The increases were approved at the trustees’ meeting on Feb. 16.

In February 2010, Middlebury set a guideline to limit increases in the comprehensive fee to no more than 1 percentage point (100 basis points) above the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index, as determined at the end of the previous calendar year. President Ronald D. Liebowitz, citing the need to control the cost of a liberal arts education, proposed the “CPI + 1” initiative, and the strategy was endorsed by the college’s trustees. The CPI rose 1.7 percent in 2012, which meant Middlebury’s fee increase for 2013-2014 would be no more than 2.7 percent.

The comprehensive fee provides 66 percent or two-thirds of Middlebury’s $207 million undergraduate college operating budget, which supports much of the academic and administrative work of the college.

The operating budget helps fund numerous items, from faculty and staff salaries to financial aid. Last year Middlebury provided grant aid to 42 percent of incoming freshman. For these students ― the Class of 2016 ― the average grant was $36,277.

Student Divestment Presentation

Prior to its meeting, board members also met with a group of students who gave a presentation on why the college should divest its endowment of companies in the fossil fuel and weapons industries.

Seven Middlebury students from a coalition of campus organizations stated that divestment was appropriate given Middlebury’s commitment to sustainability and its leadership position in this area. They also expressed their belief that such a change would encourage other institutions to consider taking the same step, and that it would not damage the endowment’s performance.

The endowment, which totaled $918 million on Dec. 31, provides 18 percent of Middlebury’s total operating budget.

“The students gave a very good presentation,” said Middlebury Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Patrick Norton. “It was clear they had done a lot of work and were very prepared and organized.”

The meeting gave the students a chance to communicate their position, and offered the trustees an opportunity to ask the students questions.

As students inside Old Chapel discussed their views, about 45 others outside held a rally in support of divestment.

During their presentation, the students proposed that the trustees make a commitment to divestment by March 15. According to Norton, discussions about divestment will continue but there is no timetable for a decision by the board.