Didn’t know where Barnard gets their money from? Well, now you do!

Aaand we’re back! This week came swimmingly and left… a lot less swimmingly. Monday’s meeting featured a breakdown of the Barnard budget with Eileen Di Benedetto, CFO and VP for Finance and SGA Rep Council, and Daniel Inzinga, Associate Director of Budget and Planning. It was a very helpful meeting, revealing more information about Barnard’s endowment and where that money is being allocated. 

The meeting began with a presentation by Benedetto and Inzinga that clarified the details of the OCIO (Outsourced Chief Investment Office) and Barnard’s Board of Trustees. Thirty minutes later, the conversation moved to a Q&A where Board members asked incredibly thoughtful questions regarding the desire for Barnard not to invest in “climate denier” organizations. 

The presentation began with a general overview of Barnard’s income. Barnard’s total endowment as of August 2021 was $477.3M, approximately $19M of which is transferred yearly to support 7.3% of the operating budget, with around $8.5M used specifically for financial aid. Benedetto then moved towards a discussion of the consulting agencies employed by Barnard—and hold your breath, it’s not pretty—Goldman Sachs and Partners Capital! The theory behind the consulting, however, is actually pretty interesting. Instead of choosing only one consulting agency to use, the Board of Trustees splits the endowment equally to see which will do better. It’s like Hunger Games but instead of thirst-trap teens, it’s white men in suits! Then, next year around July 1, the Board will reconvene to decide the permanent management of shares. 

Then, Benedetto shared a graphic, highlighting Barnard’s 8.9% annual growth in endowment since 2012. That’s approximately $247M, equivalent to the tuition of over 3,000 students. However, the next graphic was a grim sight that served as a harrowing reminder; of the endowments of select liberal arts schools, Barnard comes dead last by far, averaging at approximately $470M, compared to the $2.8 billion dollar endowment of Williams College. President Sian Beilock justified this difference by claiming, “We were founded on an idea—not an endowment.” While many other liberal arts colleges were founded with a large bank account, Barnard was founded with the intent to give women the education they deserved when the University wouldn’t, regardless of the finances. 

After that oddly wholesome ending to the graphic comparisons, the conversation then moved to the SGA endowment, which is around $515K with an annual allowance of $20K. Benedetto shared her agenda with VP of Finance Kennedy Yeager (BC’22), and the rest of the Board of Trustees. Bendetto explained that this year SGA will be more transparent in sharing what this money will be used for and how to create small activities that will enhance student life on campus.

The presentation then moved on to explain where Barnard gets their money. Inzinga explained that despite being completely need-blind, Barnard receives 64.5% of their operating budget from tuition and fees. Below is where Barnard gets the rest of their budget funding: 

  • Auxiliary Enterprises: 18.1%
  • Endowment Spending 7.3%
  • Private Gifts & Grants 6.4%
  • Federal & State Grants 3.4%
  • Other sources 0.4%

Izingia then shared that the most important part of the budget this year is safety, with regard to COVID-19 relief. Through contact tracing, testing, quarantine locations, CoVerified, and many more very necessary expenses, Barnard can ensure its students get the most realistic experience possible. The rest of the spending is as follows: 

  • Salaries and Wages: 37.9%
  • OTPS (other than personal services all fixed costs like agreement to Columbia, buildings, etc.): 22.6%
  • Financial Aid: 19.5%
  • Employee Benefits: 15.2%
  • Debt Service: 4.5%
  • Contingency: 0.4%

After the presentation, the meeting was opened to general members to ask questions. While many questions asked challenged the creation of the Board of Trustees as well as the OCIO, below are two that were especially telling. 

  • “How do we ensure the Advisory Board stays aware of their environment and their place at Barnard?” – Delaney Michaelson (BC’24).
    • Benedetto made it clear that her role on the advisory committee is to act as a conduit for communication between students and the trustees. She shared that during her time on the Board, Barnard students themselves created a task force and a set of guidelines to ensure no further investments in climate deniers.
  • “While transparency of the climate side has become increasingly clear, how come Barnard students don’t know what else is going on behind the budget?” – Parker Watts (BC’22). Watts also brought up Columbia’s history of investment in unethical practices, and questioned why there is no other clarity.
    • Benedetto responded that her hands are mostly tied. Due to legality between the OCIO and Board of Trustees, there isn’t much more information she can share. However, through SGA, she could obtain a report of donors and the background on the SGA endowment, which she would be glad to share with the Board. Benedetto also shared that she hopes to increase transparency through the financial aid department at Barnard through mandatory training to ensure customer service needs are being met. 

That put an end to the budget and definitely was a big eye-opener for me. To wrap up this coverage, I’d like to remind everyone to read their emails for the SGA newsletter because it includes a large amount of very important information. See you next week! 

Header via Bwarchives