In a bold move to insure ICO’s position of leadership in the next century the ICO Board of Trustees voted to endorse President Charles Mullen’s proposals to freeze tuition and increase scholarship aid while gradually phasing in a reduction in the size of entering classes.
The most immediate ramifications of this decision will be felt by current ICO students. “I am pleased to inform the ICO community,” Dr. Mullen announced, “that tuition for the academic year 1999-2000 will not increase above the current level of $22,668.”
The decision to freeze tuition was based on several factors, according to members of the President’s Advisory Council (PAC).
While ICO’s tuition has traditionally been high, it has been close to other private schools and colleges of optometry. In recent years, however, the gap between ICO and its private counterparts has begun to widen, lessening ICO’s ability to compete for top quality students in some instances. “There is no doubt the high cost of tuition at ICO is beginning to make an impact,” said Dean for Student Affairs Mark Colip, O.D., “and not only in relation to other schools of optometry.” He said there are indications that nationwide academically gifted undergraduates are sometimes bypassing optometry altogether to pursue less expensive educational avenues.
Another concern was the high level of indebtedness carried by recent ICO graduates. “Our students are graduating with debts averaging $145,000,” said Janice Sharre, O.D., Dean for Academic Affairs. “Servicing debt of that size, even amortized over thirty years, can have a significant impact on both one’s professional decisions and personal lifestyle” she said.
“Obviously, we’re pleased that tuition is going to be frozen,” said Student Body President Keri Navi. “We feel this step is absolutely necessary to ensure that today’s student will be an active member of the Alumni Association.”
The reduction of entering class sizes will begin with a five student reduction in the size of the class admitted in the year 2000 (the class of 2004). The intention is to continue to reduce entering classes by five students for five years, when the class of 2010 will enter with 149 students. Again, a number of considerations led to this decision.
“When I sent the annual President’s Letter to the alumni and alumnae this past fall we included a response card asking them to identify challenges facing the College and the profession,” said Dr. Mullen. “A significant number of those responding felt the profession could not continue to absorb the number of students graduating with optometry degrees in today’s health care market,” he explained.
ICO is committed to increasing scholarship support. “Holding the line on tuition and reducing entering class size will make us more attractive to those considering optometry school,” said Dr. Colip. “But competition for students is becoming greater as the number of applicants for optometry schools continues to decline nationwide. If we are to remain competitive for the very best students we will have to increase the amount and the diversity of the scholarship support we offer prospective students.”
While confident of the wisdom, and even the necessity, of this course of action, Dr. Mullen cautioned that it will be difficult and may require adjustment to the plan over time. Still, Dr. Mullen and the Board of Trustees are convinced these actions are necessary. “If we failed to act as we did,” Dr. Mullen said, “and allowed tuition to continue to increase and class size to remain at the current level while scholarship aid remained static we would eventually have faced a crisis where even drastic action might not suffice. In this manner, by implementing measured and carefully considered actions now, as difficult as they might be, we can insure that ICO will retain a position of leadership in optometric education.”
A key component to making this plan viable, said Patrick McCallig, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, will be continued alumni support. “In order to finance increased scholarship aid while reducing tuition income, through a combination of fewer students and freezing tuition costs, we will need to grow our endowment,” Mr. McCallig said. “So far alumni approval for the plan has been strong, and I anticipate it will be reflected in alumni support for the College.”
In announcing these plans to the College Dr. Mullen thanked those whose hard work had made it possible. “To do this required that some difficult decisions be made,” he said. “It would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of our students, faculty, administrators, staff and Board of Trustees. To all of you I extend my sincere appreciation.”
Dr. Mullen reaffirmed his commitment that these reductions and reallocations in resources would not result in any diminishment of ICO’s commitment to excellence, “I can assure you,” he said, “that appropriate resources will be available to support our mission of excellence in education, patient care and scholarly activity.”
“I am very proud to be associated with ICO and its tradition of leadership which,” he concluded, “once again was demonstrated by this bold decision.”
ICO Matters. Spring/Summer 1999.
Dr. Charles F. Mullen, ICO President