St. John’s College Commits to Affordability with New Financial Model

September 12, 2018

Students with Freeing Minds sign
Students pose at the Freeing Minds capital campaign kickoff event on the Santa Fe campus.

St. John’s College is taking bold steps to become one of the most affordable private liberal arts colleges in the country. On September 12, St. John’s announced that it is moving away from “prestige pricing” and a tuition-centered financial model and is launching a new philanthropy-centered financial model to make the school more affordable and accessible for students.

The new financial model is comprised of two essential and concurrent actions: reducing the published annual tuition for undergraduate students from over $52,000 to $35,000 beginning with the 2019-20 academic year and at the same time launching a $300-million capital campaign to fund the difference between what it costs to educate a student at St. John’s College and what a student will actually pay in tuition. In addition, the college is implementing a tuition freeze for graduate students for the 2019-20 academic year.

“For too long, most private colleges have been driven by the idea that families believe high price equals high quality, and with this belief private colleges have embraced an escalating tuition model known as ‘prestige pricing.’ Over the last 20 years, tuition at private colleges has risen three times the rate of inflation,” said Mark Roosevelt, college-wide president of St. John’s College and president of the Santa Fe campus. “These astronomical advertised tuition prices say one thing to many American families: ‘you cannot afford to come here.’ We are putting a stop to ‘prestige pricing’ and making a transformational change around affordability and accessibility so that, with our lower tuition price and generous need-based financial aid, a St. John’s education is within reach for a wider range of students.”

The actual cost to St. John’s to educate each student is about $60,000 per year. Much of what makes St. John’s so distinct also makes St. John’s expensive—its commitment to a rigorous classroom learning experience, to small seminar classes with a 7:1 student-faculty ratio, to employing full-time faculty rather than cutting costs through the use of adjunct faculty, and to providing the Program to students on two small campuses.

A Distinct Model for a Distinct College

The new financial model will reverse the trend of spiraling tuition rates by placing extended philanthropy at the center of the model. To fund the difference between the actual cost to educate a student and the new $35,000 annual tuition, the school is launching “Freeing Minds: A Campaign for St. John’s College,” a $300-million capital campaign that will double the college’s endowment by 2023 and help the college better meet the needs of future students.

“Just as St. John’s has a unique curriculum, the Freeing Minds campaign is a unique capital campaign. The $300-million campaign is not intended to fund a new stadium or new buildings or amenities. Instead, the dollars raised will go toward making the distinct education at St. John’s affordable and accessible for a larger number of students,” said Panayiotis (Pano) Kanelos, president of St. John’s Annapolis campus. “We believe that education is a common good, and it should be treated as one financially. We know that educating students well is expensive, and if worthy students cannot pay then we need to take bold steps to ensure they have a place here.”

An Outpouring of Generosity

The college is proud to announce a truly transformational pledge—and the largest gift in the history of St. John’s. Through the Winiarski Family Foundation, alumni Warren and Barbara Winiarski have created a challenge grant, matching dollar for dollar every gift to the college up to $50 million as a part of the Freeing Minds campaign. This visionary gift underscores the principles of the campaign—that a St. John’s education should be affordable and accessible to all qualified students who seek it.

The Winiarskis are an outstanding example of how a St. John’s education has led to lives of richness and purpose. Warren is well known on both campuses, in part because he is a Summer Classics tutor on the Sante Fe campus, but also because he is a legend in American winemaking. His 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 and set American winemaking on a path so remarkable that a bottle of that cabernet is included in The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects along with Lewis and Clark’s compass, the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, and other transformational objects.

Barbara matriculated with the college’s very first class of women, despite her parents’ desire that she be formally trained as a painter. She came to St. John’s because, in her words, she wanted “to learn everything.” In 2018, her paintings were published in the book Passages. They have been described as “having compelling intimacy. They capture moments in people’s daily lives while drawing the viewer into a space of contemplation.”

“In supporting the college and its future, the Winiarski Family Foundation hopes this gift will continue to give students the opportunity to learn as we did,” said Warren and Barbara Winiarski. “Our time at St. John’s both influenced and sustained our paths throughout our lives, and instilled a great respect for education and for the St. John’s’ way to thoughtful action.”

Alumni Ron Fielding, the chair of the St. John’s Board of Visitors and Governors, and Warren Spector, chair of the Capital Campaign, were among the first to support Freeing Minds. Each gave vital leadership gifts of $25 million to the campaign. In total, the college has already received $183 million in commitments toward the campaign goal.

“A $300-million capital campaign goal is quite large for a college of our size but, thanks to the generosity of our fellow alumni and friends, we know this vision will be realized. Through their charitable foundation, Warren and Barbara’s extraordinary challenge grant will ensure that the education the college provides will remain transformative for generations to come—that the best and brightest students will become ‘Johnnies’ regardless of their financial circumstances, and that St. John’s will continue to free minds,” said Fielding and Spector in a joint statement.

More information about the new financial model and Freeing Minds capital campaign can be found at

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