Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘Emerson’s next president should serve students, not their pockets’

By William Gilligan, Interim President of Emerson College

I write today in response to an opinion piece, “Emerson’s next president should serve students, not their pockets,” in order to clarify information provided in this piece, as well as to reaffirm my goals as Interim President.

In a media environment where many in our society pick and choose their facts, I feel compelled to share what I know to be the truth related to Emerson College, our leadership, and the efforts the college has made to improve financial aid and support students.

Those facts are here:

  • Trustees of the College are volunteers; they are not, and never have been, paid for their work on behalf of the institution. 
  • There has been no large exodus of faculty, recent departures are consistent with previous years. 
  • While a promise of tuition reduction was never made, the College did reduce the annual tuition increase to 2% for each of the last two years – a rate of increase well below that of previous years, which has ranged from 3-5%.
  • 66.7% of new full time students in 2020 had need-based financial aid met. Of all full-time undergraduate students, 52.6% percent received need-based financial aid.

In addition, the College has made strides to increase financial aid and support its students recently; those efforts include:

  • In 2020, the College implemented a Tuition Increase Offset Fund that provides assistance to cover the increase in tuition costs from the previous year for students with demonstrated need. This essentially locks in the previous year’s tuition rate for those students who find themselves in need of additional financial assistance. This fund has been renewed since its inception.
  • Although the College had to reduce costs to meet the challenges of the pandemic, it simultaneously increased its financial aid budget by more than $7M annually compared to pre-pandemic levels, and it worked with students to access additional financial support as family situations changed during the pandemic.
  • The College created the Educational Enhancement Fund to help support extracurricular experiences for students. Both graduate and undergraduate students with identified financial need can apply for awards of $250–$4,000 each to enrich their collegiate experience through extracurricular programming.
  • The College made available to students more than $6.17 million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief aid through the various congressionally-legislated programs.

The Emerson community should know that as long as I hold the Interim President position, I will continue to ensure that the College is poised for continued success when a new permanent president is identified. Emerson is a special institution with students, faculty, and staff who inspire me every day. I will do all I can to ensure that each of us are best able to achieve success here at Emerson in an open and collegial environment.


President William Gilligan