Barnard Bwogger Dassi Karp covered this week’s SGA meeting which was rather interesting as it covered Barnard’s budget, expenditure and food insecurity.
It’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: the return of the administrative guests. This week, Barnard’s Student Government Association welcome Chief Operating Officer Robert Goldberg and VP Finance Eileen DiBenedetto to explain to Rep Council about Barnard’s budget and revenue sources. This may seem like a dry topic. It is. And the information has not really changed since the Goldberg and DiBenedetto gave the same presentation last year. Its a really important topic, though. Students need to better understand what kinds of funds Barnard can and does access when they make demands of the administration. Many of the Rep Council members (about a third) were conspicuously absent last night, and didn’t get a chance to hear that sweet sweet info. But, as Goldberg explained, “right before break is a good time to talk about finances.” So here it goes:
Barnard’s budget this year was about $207.7 million. About half of that money goes to salaries and benefits for faculty, staff, and administrators. “This makes sense,” said Goldberg, “because this is a people-driven organization.” About a quarter of the money goes to financial aid. Because of Barnard’s need-blind admissions policy, there is no specific budget set for financial aid, and it changes according to the needs of that year’s students. A smaller portion of the budget goes to non-personal expenditures, like gas and electricity bills. Four and a half percent is spend on debt services on loans taken out in the past, for building projects such as Sulzberger Tower and the Diana Center. Goldberg was careful to note that the new Milstein Center (Barnard’s new library, whose wooden-look exterior gives it a decidedly Noah’s Ark vibe) was largely financed by private donations, and does not have more than a two percent impact on the yearly budget.
Goldberg and DiBenedetto also explained that Barnard’s revenue is largely tuition based, with 80% coming from tuition and student fees. Only 7% of revenue comes from the endowment, and a comparable amount comes from private giving. The rest is made up of state and private grants. Compared to its academic peers–such as other ivies and prominent liberal arts colleges, Barnard has a very small endowment.
They also tried to explain how tuition rates are set. Each year, Barnard’s financial team works to try to perdict expenses for the next year. Some expenses are fixed, for example built in salary escalations. They also look into recruitment and retention numbers and student services requirements. They present a report to the Board of Trustees in March, and work to refine the numbers through the spring. “We don’t want to charge any more money than we have to,” Goldberg tried to assure Rep Council (and whoever is listening to the livestream, and you, dear reader). The financial team tries to find places to cut back on expenses wherever possible. “Evie will know what this sounds like,” remarked Goldberg of SGA’s VP Finance Evie McCorkle.
Evie, who can be counted on to ask the hard questions, asked if Goldberg had any predictions for when the endowment will be big enough for a tuition freeze. He did not. He did explain that the College is not doing badly financially, and that the “future of funding is actually very bright.” Other questions from Rep Council members were answered in turn, including explanations from Goldberg that “we’re not making money on meal plans” (who is though? I think someone must be) and “we’re painfully aware that the infrastructure is aging” (looking at you, 600 pipes).
Besides listening dutifully to the financial presentation, Rep Council also voted to form an ad hoc committee about food insecurity. The proposed committee would work to determine the depth and instance of food insecurity and Barnard, come up with recommendations to combat the problem, and create a report of resources and findings. The motion to form the committee passed unanimously. Applications to join will be coming out soon.
Image via WikiCommons