At Suffolk University, New President Pledges Affordability

Suffolk University’s new president Margaret McKenna says she’s committed to urban issues and college access and affordability.

McKenna, a civil rights lawyer who ran Lesley University for 20 years, is the first woman to lead the 109-year-old university, which faces a host of issues – from skyrocketing costs to a shrinking endowment.

As Suffolk’s fourth president in five years, McKenna says she looks forward to the challenge.

“I have no interest in doing the same old, same old,” McKenna told WGBH’s Boston Public Radio Wednesday. “We need to focus on the things we do well.”

Under her leadership, McKenna says Suffolk will expand its public policy and law programs.

McKenna is also pledging to make Suffolk more affordable. For Suffolk’s poorest students, the average net price – the sticker price minus grants and scholarships – is more than $22,000, according the U.S. Department of Education.

To control costs, McKenna said she will take a close look at how the university issues scholarships and grants.

“We need to increase Pell grants,” McKenna said. “We need to refocus on what this is about, which is poverty.”

On Boston Public Radio, McKenna also admitted reluctant retirees at Suffolk are driving up tuition costs. A new survey finds almost fifty percent of tenured faculty 50 or older would like to and expect to work past the age of 67.

Earlier: Are Reluctant Retirees Undermining Innovation On Campus?

“You want some people to move on,” McKenna said. “There is an issue of aging faculty not making room for younger faculty.”

McKenna joined Jim Braude and Margery Egan in the WGBH studio and answered questions about college affordability and student debt.

Listen to the full interview here:

[Cross-posted at On Campus: The WGBH Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.