Dear Middlebury Community,
In our Weekly Update this week we will address some questions about students’ return to campus this fall as well as some procedural information and education efforts for the entire campus community.
Transportation and Student Testing
We have heard from some of you about student transportation to campus and COVID-19 testing appointments upon arrival. Students will receive a separate communication with sign-up links for both.
The Student Government Association is sponsoring subsidized bus transportation on designated arrival days (August 18, 26, and 28) from Burlington International Airport; Grand Central and Penn Stations, and White Plains, New York; Ridgewood, New Jersey; Boston; and Hookset, New Hampshire. The buses will have reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. Students should not board buses if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms. Additional exposure control measures include assigned seats and required face coverings while onboard. Reservations are available through the box office. Please direct your questions to email@example.com.
The first stop for students returning to campus will be Virtue Field House, where all arriving students will be tested for COVID-19. We have a quick and easy test that requires each student to self-collect an anterior nares swab, meaning they will insert a small swab approximately a half-inch long into each nostril to collect the specimen. Staff will guide them through every step of the process, and test results are expected within 36 hours.
Tuition and Fees
Throughout the summer, as we have continued to refine our return-to-campus plans, including class schedules and modes of learning, we have heard from some of you about tuition and student activity fees. Students and parents, in particular, have wondered why we are raising tuition by 3 percent at a time when many are facing new challenges brought on by the pandemic, and when some of our courses will be taught remotely.
The answer is complex. First and foremost, we are preparing to provide the high-quality academic programs and services that our students and their families expect from a Middlebury education. Our faculty and staff continue to devote their resources to delivering excellence in course instruction, student services, and extracurricular activities. We are using technology to enhance the Middlebury experience and provide as much individual engagement with students as possible.
As always, our students will have access to the outstanding elements of the Middlebury education with health and safety measures in place. We are deeply committed to enriching in-person, virtual, and hybrid instruction so that students receive the benefits accruing from a rigorous academic experience complemented by a compelling community experience. The reality is that the costs of providing that high-quality educational experience have increased rather than diminished, in light of the pandemic.
Some of you have asked why we are not drawing additional funds from the endowment rather than increase tuition. In fact, Middlebury is relying more on its endowment this year. We are taking 2.5 percent more from the endowment than we normally would to cover our projected $23.5 million deficit for the current fiscal year, FY 2021. Our deficit includes COVID-related expenses such as classroom modifications, testing costs, and the loss of room and board fees for students studying remotely this fall.
Even with the increase in endowment draw, our costs will exceed all revenue by about $7,500 per student. Middlebury’s Board of Trustees has felt compelled to rely further on the endowment during this pandemic, even though the majority–95 percent–of the endowment is restricted for specific purposes. In order to spend endowment resources that are designated for a program or other purpose, we would have to get permission from individual donors and then possibly discontinue the services or programs that their donations supported, which would take away from the experience of our students. Our focus is on maintaining Middlebury’s academic excellence in the safest way possible for students, faculty, and staff.
Finally, as you know, Middlebury is need-blind and meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students. We are one of only a few dozen undergraduate institutions to do this, providing grant aid to approximately half of our students, and we continue to make this a priority.
In It Together
As we have discussed many times in the past few months, coming together again in the fall will require us all to work together and to adjust to a different way of living, learning, and working at Middlebury. We want to thank our faculty and staff for all the preparations they are making for the return of students, to both on-campus and remote learning.
We also want to thank all employees in advance for modeling the same health and safety behaviors that we expect of our students. Faculty and staff play a key role in setting examples. To make the fall semester a success, it is equally important for everyone who works at Middlebury—as well as the students—to practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering, and stay home if sick.
We encourage all to consider further how their actions and preparations will affect others and to be prepared for some difficult choices. That will mean holding off on hugs and keeping a physical distance from friends they have not seen in a long time. It will mean avoiding congregating in lines at the testing center and dining hall during the first days and weeks on campus. And it might mean scheduling FaceTime or Zoom rather than in-person meetings until we advance beyond Campus Quarantine to Phase Two or Three. It will surely mean occasionally reminding one another to abide by the rules.
A group of students who participated in the STEM Innovation Program this summer exemplify our efforts to educate and set an example for others. Nina Cruz ’21, Hira Zeeshan ’22, and Anna Saviano ’22 created a set of animated videos to illustrate some of the new procedures on campus for the fall 2020 semester. The STEM Innovation Program, advised by professors Jeremy Ward, Noah Graham, and Frank Swenton, collaborated with the College’s health educators on these important messages about different aspects of campus life. The videos will be shared across various communication channels and educational programs, but we invite you to watch and listen to them now:
Thank you for taking the time to read through these updates. As always, if you have questions, please write to COVIDinfo@middlebury.edu. We look forward to being with you again soon.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Dean of Students
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration