ECSU releases email correspondence with President Pelton concerning tuition hike



The Emerson College Student Union released the email correspondence from President M. Lee Pelton after the group held a phone bank for students to express concerns about tuition hikes.

By Elena Naze

Emerson College Student Union posted a response to an email from President M. Lee Pelton on Monday highlighting financial issues faced by students and urging him to not approve a rumored 3.5 percent tuition increase next year.

Pelton’s email was in response to an email sent during a Feb. 18 phone bank held by ECSU in response to the rumored tuition increase. ECSU then posted Pelton’s email, which was in some places a word-for-word copy of his 2019 state of the college address, and added their commentary.

ECSU declined to comment on the post and the college’s media relations department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Pelton began the email explaining how he and the Board of Trustees are aware of the financial issues many students face and that the college is starting a program to decrease the rate of tuition changes over time.

In the post, ECSU responded that the Board of Trustee’s meeting minutes are not available to the public and that many students require quick action on tuition costs because they are “dropping out, going hungry, and taking on debt right now and don’t have time to wait for a slow-moving program.”

Pelton wrote in his email that a zero percent tuition hike on tuition would increase class sizes and reduce many student services.

ECSU referenced the $30 million endowment and $10 million in real estate that Emerson will receive from the proposed Emerson-Malboro merger and questioned the legitimacy of the claim that without the tuition increase the quality of Emerson’s education would fall.

Pelton also stated that the college awarded $3 million more in financial aid this year, and $19 million more over the past six years. ECSU’s rebuttal in the post claimed that the individual amount of aid given to students has not been proportional to tuition increases. They also referenced the $24 million spent to buy 172 Tremont, which they said is $5 million more than the college’s 6-year financial aid budget.

Pelton noted that the college’s tuition increase dropped from 4.5 percent to 4 percent in 2019, acknowledging that the decrease was a “very modest downward adjustment.” ESCU agreed but responded claiming that Pelton’s salary has increased by 148.6 percent since 2011.

Pelton ends the email breaking down the operating budget for 2020: 41 percent will go towards salaries and benefits, 18 percent will go towards labor and financial aid, 12 percent will pay for debt services, and an additional 15 percent will go to operations and maintenance of buildings. ECSU claimed the budget leaves approximately $40 million unaccounted for.

ECSU ended their post by pointing out that Pelton didn’t address what they said were one in five students who don’t graduate from Emerson due to financial limitations.

“Do you consider these students collateral?” ECSU wrote. “Do you consider low-income students disposable? And if you don’t: stop treating us like we are. We are not going anywhere. We will win this tuition freeze. And we will keep coming back.”

Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Sofiya Cabalquinto said the college plans to host a community forum on finance where students can express concerns and ask questions of administrators.

“The College takes student concerns about tuition and fees very seriously,” she said in an emailed statement to The Beacon. “College leadership, including President Pelton and the Board of Trustees, are committed to keeping annual increases as low as possible while continuing to invest in enhancing the educational experience for current and future Emersonians. At a time when many of our peer schools are facing financial difficulties, Emerson needs to maintain fiscal strength and continue making sound investments in our people, programs, and facilities.”

This article was updated Feb. 25 to include a statement from the Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Sofiya Cabalquinto

Correction 2/27/2020: A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted the Emerson College Student Union’s statement saying the college spent $5 million more on 172 Tremont than the six-year financial aid budget. The story has been updated to reflect the correct version of the statement from ECSU: the college spent $5 million more on 172 Tremont than it spent increasing financial aid over the last six years.