College investments raise concerns of financial prudence

We at the Phoenix started off the year by praising the college for its various and diverse developmental projects, noting that there was a clear effort to work towards improving various aspects of students’ experience here at Swarthmore. While this continues to hold true, all beneficial investments require significant financial capital, a resource which is finite and inevitably fluctuates from year to year in regards to inflows. As such, alongside any developments comes the concern of a judicious distribution of funds.

Investing in several projects at this time may prevent future classes from enjoying benefits of potential projects that could be more appropriate for them at a future time. More importantly, as we watch the construction of the Inn, the development of a party space near Olde Club, the creation of suite style dorms known as “New PPR,” and the demolition of Hicks and Papazian and the construction of the BEP, we wonder why such projects were not undertaken in order to benefit the classes that have passed before us. For several years, it seems that no funding was being used to develop and improve campus infrastructure. What has been the impetus for several simultaneous projects now, and what are the fiscal implications of investing such a tremendous sum of money all at once?

We at the Phoenix are concerned with the potential for generational inequity, where some classes are deprived of any or all of these benefits. It is the college’s responsibility to ensure a high quality experience for all students; this requires a balanced spread of funds from year to year to address the most pressing and relevant issues that pertain to each group of students that passes through Swarthmore. Selecting a span of a few years to engage in several initiatives, a period of time which is then followed by years of inactivity and little development, seems erratic and imprudent. All classes, irrespective of the timing of their entrance and exit, deserve the same level of care and attention from the college, and this requires greater consistency in the college’s willingness to invest into the wellbeing of students with each passing fiscal year.



  1. The 2007-2008 financial crisis put many of these projects on hold for multiple years. The school is making up for lost ground right now.

  2. There are certainly a lot of issues with the College’s planning process, but I don’t believe financing or intergenerational equity are among them.

    The College suspended a lot of capital planning during the financial crisis, when it would have been imprudent to take on major initiatives.

    As for financial implications, the college finances its construction with municipal bonds, which is an attractive approach because of College has AAA debt ratings and most bonds are tax-exempt. Wealthy colleges and universities usually leverage their large endowments to borrow large amounts at low interest rates. This means that the “fiscal implications of investing such a tremendous sum” in the campus is actually spread out over 30 years or so, not “all at once.” So, while current students and faculty are benefiting from the construction projects of the last three decades–Kohlberg, Sci Center, AP, DK, and various renovations–the College spends millions of dollars a year paying for the facilities that we’re using today. Likewise, the current projects that will benefit future classes will be paid for in future budgets. Is that not intergenerational equity?

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