Board of Managers Approves Budget Cuts

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Board of Managers convened Friday and Saturday to review the Ad-Hoc Committee’s proposed $8 million budget cuts, eventually approving the cuts in full. The Ad-Hoc Committee warned that, given the 16.8% loss to endowment during the 2008-09 fiscal year, approximately $8 million dollars would have to be cut from the operating budget to ensure a return to a sustainable rate of endowment spending within the next 3-5 years.

The $8 million budget adjustment was spread across many aspects of the College. Spending on Facilities has been reduced by $2.5 million, and $2.25 million came through “Academic and Administrative Budget Reductions/ Restructuring.” This included $1.3 million to be eliminated from the budgets of academic departments, interdisciplinary programs and the Provost’s Office. A further $457,000 is to be eliminated from Financial Aid, and $400,000 will be cut from staff and faculty benefits. This included reducing the percent of college tuition that would be paid for employee children and restructuring the health plans of employees into one that, according to the Ad-Hoc Committee’s proposal, would be “comparable, but less expensive.” Student Council Vice President Nate Erskine ’10 said, “The Ad Hoc Committee approached the budget cuts with the philosophy of shared sacrifice throughout.”

A further $1.1 million dollars of cuts are expected, but the Ad-Hoc Committee recommended determining the distribution of the cuts at a later time in order to preserve flexibility. The College is relying on a few less significant cuts, a fundraising effort that is expected to net the College $1 million dollars, and increased interest income due to higher interest rates, to accomplish the rest.

Swarthmore’s budget is, according to Vice President Maurice Eldridge ’61, “highly dependent on endowment support. Other schools don’t rely so heavily upon it.” The primary reason for this is Swarthmore extremely high endowment-to-student ratio, which means that student tuition comprises a lower percentage of Swarthmore’s operating budget than it does at most peer institutions. Eldridge was optimistic that the cuts would not impact student life too broadly, noting that the cuts “will not take place over one year” but rather over three to five. Still, he said, “One must be very careful about what the effects on the curriculum are,” noting that the Board was careful not to approve cuts that they thought would affect “Swarthmore’s core educational mission” too directly.

The Board opted to convene a Committee of the Whole, scrapping individual meetings in favor of a joint session. The Board of Managers is comprised almost entirely of Swarthmore alums, who serve terms ranging from 4-12 years.

Before the meeting, the Financial Planning group solicited feedback in meetings with the community and via the Student Financial Advisory Panel, which made a statement to the Board on Friday.

A full report on the proceedings is available from the Financial Planning Group’s website.

Journalists were forbidden from attending the Board meeting, as is standard practice at Board of Managers events. Dean of Students Garikai Campbell ’90 and Student Council President Rachel Bell ’10 had not responded to requests for interviews by press time.

The Phoenix