The cost of a Bowdoin education has once again reached an all-time high, with the 2005-2006 comprehensive fee surpassing the $40,000 mark for the first time. Total tuition and fees now amount to $41,660, marking a 4.99 percent increase over the course of one year.

"Forty-thousand dollars is seen as a benchmark," said Director of Student Aid Stephen Joyce. "I think there will become a point where cost is a major factor, but I don't know if $40,000 is that point."

Students are reacting in different ways to the tuition increase.

"I am glad I am graduating before I can run myself any further into debt with college loans," senior Kevin Larivee said.

Aaron McCullough '07 disagrees. "I guess I can sort of understand it, when you consider how many services the college offers?everything from the dining services to the counseling services," McCullough said.

"I guess the question is whether or not we need everything that's being offered. The answer is probably not. The funny thing is, once you have these services, you don't want to see them go, even if they are realistically more than we need," he said.

Although tuition and fees have been increasing steadily year after year, the escalating price of a college education has members of the Bowdoin staff anxious about future enrollment.

"Our big challenge is to make sure people don't just look at the fees and shy away," Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Steele said. "There shouldn't be a problem, as long as we get the word out about our financial aid program. Our financial aid program compares extremely well with other institutions."

Presently, 42 percent of the student body receives financial aid from the College, with an average award last year of approximately $28,000. The money for financial aid does not come from tuition payments, but rather, from endowed sources, federal grants, and gifts, according to the Student Aid Office.

Bowdoin has maintained a policy of need-blind admissions for 12 years, meaning that the financial need of the applicant plays no part in the student's admission. Once accepted, the College determines the student's full calculated need.

"There is something pure and clean to be able to say nobody is excluded because they don't have the resources to be here," Joyce said.

However, offering need-blind admissions is merely a policy and can change if the cost of enrollment surpasses the funds available for scholarships. Nonetheless, the College has no immediate plans to discontinue the practice of need-blind admissions, even with steadily rising costs.

"We aren't bound by a policy," Joyce said. "We have the flexibility to make changes if necessary. However, we have a president who is determined to keep ours doors open to anyone who can get in here," he said.

In a May letter to parents, President Barry Mills explained that despite the rising cost of a Bowdoin education, the College is striving to cut expenses wherever the reduction will not affect the quality of student experience on campus. For example, Mills spoke of converting the school's boilers to require less costly fuel oil in order to cut winter heating costs.

The principal expense incurred by the College, however, is the cost of staff wages and benefits. According to Mills, nearly 60 percent of the College's budget goes to pay professors, coaches, and other college personnel.

"The first thing we're looking at is faculty salaries," Joyce said. "We have to be competitive in the marketplace."

Nevertheless, College officials hope that surpassing the $40,000 mark will not deter many students from applying.

"The media grabs onto that price tag and they are less willing to tell the story that Bowdoin is still accessible to students regardless of financial background," Joyce said.

Many students agree. "I think the 40,000 threshold is kind of arbitrary," Michael Tillotson '08 said. "I mean, it's always increasing?this year it just happened to pass a number with a lot of zeros in it."