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  • Jack Bowerman

Baker Financial Crisis of 1872-73: Tuition and Faculty Salaries

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Claudia Schindel asked a question about student tuition and faculty salaries in Baker's early days. Here is what I have found out to far regarding student tuition and salaries:

According to the Annals of Baker University which was published in 1917 and covered the first sixty years of Baker history, the University experienced a financial crisis beginning in the late 1860's and continuing into the early 1870's. Money was borrowed to cover operating losses and the Board of Trustees considered closing the school, selling the property or moving it to another city. Rev. Jeremy Boynton, who had been elected as the President of the Board of Trustees in March of 1872, issued a statement in June of 1873 which set forth how the crisis was going to be addressed including tuition levels, faculty salaries and what the faculty was willing to sacrifice, as well as calling on all Methodists to pitch in.

June 20, 1873. From communication by the President of Board of Trustees:

"Baker University has just closed its Fifteenth Annual Commencement Exercises. Three more are now added to the Alumni of this institution, which has already done so much for education and religion in this young and prosperous commonwealth."

"The following questions are now definitely settled: 1. That the University must remain at Baldwin City. 2. That the school must continue in operation. 3. That no more indebtedness shall be incurred. 4. That all debts outstanding shall be paid as fast as possible. "It must be apparent to all, that in order to pay our debts we must continue the school. And yet it would be more than hazardous, it would be disastrous, to continue the school by increasing the indebtedness. This must not and shall not be done."

"Then, in order to run the school and save the University to the Church, we must in some way pay our expenses as we go. In order to be able to do this, the Board have decided to make a vigorous effort to secure, by subscription, the tuition of a sufficient number of students in advance to secure the salaries of the teachers. The tuition thus subscribed is to be paid in three equal installments, corresponding with the commencement of each of the three terms. The tuition will not be less than $6, nor more than $8, per term; making in the preparatory $18, and in the college classes $24 per year. This is a small amount, and being paid in three installments, makes it easy for all, and still this arrangement will enable the Board to pay the Faculty in advance each month. This plan was introduced on the 18th of June. The people thus far have responded nobly. If the presiding elders will cooperate with us heartily, we can commence the next term with one hundred and fifty students. Will they do it? The people are ready to take hold of the work if the subject is properly presented to them."

"I am now prepared to state a fact that of itself should move every Methodist heart in Kansas, and cause all to do the full extent of their ability to sustain and build up this University. Since the close of the last term the Executive Board have been able to secure the services of Prof. Weatherby, Prof. M. V. B. Knox and Mrs. Prof. Knox, and they make the following, more than magnanimous, offer, viz: Each one proposes to donate the one-half of the salary for the ensuing year. Prof. Weatherby has been here for three years at a great sacrifice. He now has two or three different offers at $1,200 each, but he proposes to remain at Baker with a salary of $1,200, and donate one-half of it out and out, thus serving us for $600 actual pay. Prof. Knox, with a salary of $1,000, proposes to donate one-half of it. Mrs. Knox, with a salary of $800, donates one-half of that amount. There are parties ready to take the chair in mathematics at a salary of $1,000, and donate one-half of it. These salaries are no more than they are offered elsewhere, and none of these persons are wealthy, but on the contrary, they are obliged to labor for a livelihood. And yet these four teachers give us for the coming year $2,000! If they are ready thus to make sacrifices for us, ought not we, as Methodists, each of us to subscribe the tuition fee of at least one student, and pay something besides toward the payment of our indebtedness? In addition to the above offer, Mrs. Knox pays for printing catalogues $40, thinking that the circulation of the catalogues will benefit the school more than to pay the tuition of two students. When one-half of the Methodists of Kansas manifest a disposition to aid the enterprise as these teachers are doing, Baker will be made a grand success. Indeed, it will not require, in the way of sacrifice and offering, anything like what these teachers are doing. One dollar per member will more than pay our indebtedness, and the tuition of one hundred students will pay the running expenses for the ensuing year. Brethren, let us do this, and then we can soon secure an endowment."

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