Trinity College: the Whole Foods of higher ed



Trinity College has the most expensive tuition in the state of Connecticut, at $63,970 a year. In analyzing the value of that education, there are two approaches: the physical value of living here and the intangible value of an education from Trinity.

I would like to address the physical value first and say that the dispersal of school funds is difficult to see. Perhaps it can be seen in the new rehearsal space behind the Austin Arts Center, the new lounges in freshman dorms, or maybe it pays for the Nutella at Mather.

As I said, I am not sure, but I can tell you what tuition is not buying. It is not fixing the leaks in the Life Science Center, it is not installing much-needed air-conditioning in many of the dorms, it is not funding innovative, sustainable,  ‘green’ technology or progressive changes to campus infrastructure, and it is not buying a particularly high academic ranking among the nation’s other colleges, especially not among comparable, elite liberal arts colleges.

Nearly $64,000 a year does not buy two-ply toilet paper, elevators that have been inspected within the last year, or construction that ends on time.

That may sound critical, but after a few years of college, one develops an eye for these budgetary inconsistencies.

Trinity does have some wonderful teachers, who offer ample help and encouragement to students. For a small college, Trinity has a unique collection of fossils, impressive microscopy tools in its science departments, and an amazing collection of historical artifacts and rare books in the Watkinson Library. Overall, Trinity College is a beautiful school, though some parts are more spectacular than others.

The reputational value of a Trinity education is somewhat different, and I would like to introduce the Whole Foods principle to the discussion.

One does not shop at Whole Foods for the sales on ground beef and Koolaid. Whole Foods represents a life style of affluence and all that implies: health, progressive thought, or leisurely enjoyment of nature.

COURTESY OF and Chotiner ’17 compares the expensive chain Whole Foods to the very steep pricing of Trinity College
Chotiner ’17 compares the expensive chain Whole Foods to the very steep pricing of Trinity College

Likewise for many Trinity students, “affordability” is not a barrier to their attending the College ––only 40% of the student body receives financial aid.  For those who want a big obvious “bang for their buck”, University of Connecticut is calling.

Attending Trinity College allows students an early opportunity to swim in a pond with big fish. In the world of finance and economics, a Trinity College degree carries its own weight, and in coming to school here, students gain access to an extensive alumni network that will serve them well throughout their careers.

In recent years, though, the discrepancy between the physical and reputational value of Trinity College has grown, and is threatening to undermine the latter. Due in part to mismanagement of funds, and a willingness to ride the coattails of our more illustrious years without thought for the value of progressive change, Trinity has dropped in ranking and begun to truly rely on that 60% of full-pay students to maintain itself. Not to mention the fact that, according to popular belief, many of those full-paying students are legacy individuals. Whether or not this is true, it is dangerous to have this perception leaking into students’, and prospective families’, minds. All in all, this is a handicap that affects both the quality of students and facilities.

If such trends as these continue, the value of a Trinity College education may very well depreciate. The students who were once so willing to take those risky elevator rides in the hopes of a Wall Street career may not be willing to pay Whole Foods prices for Walmart quality goods.

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