Bad News Bears

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More bad news regarding endowments, this time that of Barnard. In an email sent to alumnae, President D.Spar announced that the school’s endowment, which was around $200 million when she assumed the presidency, will be just $150 million at the end of the year. Both numbers, she admitted, are small compared to those of peer institutions. (Wellesley, for example, has an endowment of $1.67 billion.)

Spar was also quick to point out that “contrary to what many people believe, we have no connection whatsoever to Columbia’s endowment, so every dollar we spend on faculty salaries, or library books, or heat for our classrooms must come from one of only three main sources: our endowment, our current students, or our annual fund.”

Full email after the jump

—– Forwarded Message —-

From: Debora Spar <[email protected]>

To: [redacted]

Sent: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 10:30:05 AM

Subject: An Important Barnard Update

December 2008

Dear Friends,

I hope this note finds you happy and well, enjoying some time with family and friends. It has been a wild ride in 2008 and we all could use, I suspect, a bit of a break.

I wanted to take this end-of-the-year opportunity to let you know how things stand at Barnard, to reassure you of our underlying strength, and to ask for your support in what remains a very troubling time.

The bad news is obvious. Barnard, like nearly every college, non-profit group, and individual in the United States, has been hit hard by the financial turmoil unleashed this year. When I assumed the college presidency in July, our endowment, always small compared to those of our peer institutions, had passed the $200 million mark for the first time. By year’s end, it will almost certainly hover closer to $150 million. Our financial aid commitment has risen from $27.3 million to $28.7 million, and we are now fielding calls daily from parents unable to pay their daughters’ tuition bills. Contrary to what many people believe, we have no connection whatsoever to Columbia’s endowment, so every dollar we spend on faculty salaries, or library books, or heat for our classrooms must come from one of only three main sources: our endowment, our current students, or our annual fund. And all of these, as you can imagine, are facing unprecedented stress.

The good news is that we have long been accustomed to managing on a much tighter budget than many of our peers. We never invested in fancy dormitories or superstar salaries, and so we do not now have the burden of supporting them. We have accelerated a review of our entire cost structure and, at our December board meeting, our trustees personally provided $535,000 in new gifts to begin to meet the increasingly urgent need for financial-aid funding.

Together, I know, we will not only weather this storm but emerge stronger from it. We will strengthen cherished programs in dance, writing, human rights, and art history; grow new initiatives in globalization and women’s leadership; and give our faculty and students the support they need to thrive. But we need your help now, perhaps, more than ever. In these tough times, we are loath to raise tuition or reduce financial aid, yet tuition, room, and board cover only 76% of our annual operating budget of $112 million, $95 million of which is purely fixed costs: the costs of our outstanding faculty, of energy, of our security staff, of the nurses who staff our clinic and the counselors who advise our students. We are trying to cut costs wherever we can, but there is only so far that we can, and should, go. Because we aren’t willing to compromise what matters most: our commitment to provide an outstanding liberal arts education to women who aspire to greatness.

I know that this year has been hard for us all. But we enter 2009 with a new administration in the wings, a palpable sense of hope among our students, and a resolution to create a new and more diverse group of leaders to bring our communities, our nation, and our world toward a better future. Barnard’s women will be part of that future. I look forward to working with you to make it happen.


Debora Spar

P.S. Any additional philanthropy we can raise at this time will be put to immediate use. To offer your support, please contact the Development Office at 212-854-7806 or visit

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  1. E alum

    There's always prostitution.

  2. Anonymous  

    maybe if barnard didnt spend money on dumb shit like midnight breakfast, sub nonsense, eating chocolate this, celebrate your body that, and every other completely unnecessary event they have, they would be ok. i go to barnard and i think its absurd. no one gives a shit about some fat bitch eating a sandwhich. tough times call for tightening the budget. go eat some hoover soup.

    • that's all  

      out of the student activities budget. they do their own fundraising in addition to what Barnard gives them.

      but clearly all of the CAO affairs cost $50 million dollars.


      • yes, but  

        if barnard didn't give them money to do those inane events (i also go to barnard) then we would have more money. although i personally doubt that barnard gives CAO that much money. or even enough to be worth arguing about.

        • BC alum

          I used to be on SGA, so we figured out how much clubs should receive. Basically - the student activities fee on your bill from Barnard each semester is given to SGA, then SGA doles out that money to clubs for operating expenses, events, etc. Nothing at all to do with the endowment. If you want to complain about the "stupid" events (I disagree, I think they're fun, but that's not the issue) - complain to SGA about how they allocate your money. Or complain to the school about having to pay such a large student activity fee each semester at all. that is all

      • Anonymous  

        trust me those events cost more than you think; i have a friend who works for cao and she has said before that the amount of money and manpower spent on those events is a lot more than you'd think. i'm not saying barnard should be a 'no fun zone' but i question if those events really do bring fun to the campus. i fell like they're just bring a sense of tradition but aren't so amazing that students would miss them if they were gone. idk, it just seems to me that barnard spends money on a lot of "inane" things as post 10 said.

  3. Anonymous  

    or do what i do....just ask my boyfriend for money ;)

  4. funny  

    if we didnt have all these big events then we would hear that we have no community on campus...

  5. I may be wrong,  

    But I think I heard people bitch about sandwiches. Seriously.

  6. ...  

    dear china,

    if lee gets money, we want some too.



  7. i like  

    midnight breakfast

  8. barnard  

    barnard is not part of columbia - we dont care about this...

    • also  

      no one ever bitches when there's news about tc on here- and guess what? it's also an "affiliated institution" like barnard. except barnard is also sometimes called an undergraduate college at cu, and we're more involved in campus life than tc students. so shut the fuck up, quit bitching, and grow a pair.

      • CC '11  

        I'm so sick and tired of Barnard riding Columbia's coattails for name recognition and prestige, but then treating CU students like rapists when trying to get into dorms

        I'm fed up with Barnard calling themselves "empowered women" or some shit, then turning around and mooching off Columbia. Fuck that.

        Barnard, you've got two options. Total assimilation (a la Radcliffe at Harvard) or total disconnection. Women always want to have their cake and eat it too -- but this is getting ridiculous.

  9. Anonymous

    We take your classes. You take ours. We give (some of) you bjs.

    We're part of campus life- get over it.

  10. bc '08

    i tried donating $10 on the website... turns out they have a minimum of $20 for online gifts! so they lost my donation.

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