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Modest Budget Increase Approved as Board Closes Future Gap

By Jeffrey Lott

At its Feb. 20 meeting, the College’s Board of Managers adopted a 2010–2011 operating budget of $108.6 million, a 1.5 percent increase from the current year. Student charges were increased by 3.8 percent to a total of $51,500 for full tuition, activities fee, room, and board. The Board reaffirmed its commitment to need-blind admissions and decided to continue offering “loan-free” financial aid awards to aided students enrolled next year.

The budget is consistent with the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Financial Planning Group, which the Board adopted in December, adjusting the College’s budget by $8 million per year, with $6.9 million included in the 2010–2011 budget. This left an additional $1.1 million in annual savings or revenue increases to be identified in the next three years—and members of the Board agreed in February to close that gap for three years, largely from their personal resources.

Eugene Lang ’38 designated funding of $700,000 each year for three years and challenged fellow Managers to come up with $300,000 a year. “Within hours of hearing of this opportunity,” reported President Rebecca Chopp in a memo to the campus community days after the meeting, “Board members, led by Gil Kemp ’72, seized the challenge and have already contributed more than $200,000.” Chopp said that the remaining $100,000 will come from “administrative savings.” In addition, Lang will provide another $100,000 for each of the next three years to help support several “core academic programs such as leave replacements or summer student research stipends and service fellowships.”

“Although the Board’s generosity does not eliminate the deeper, longer-term budget issues, their donations provide us with the time we need to think strategically about resolving these issues,” Chopp said. The College will begin a strategic “direction-setting process” in the fall.

The target for on-campus enrollment will be increased next year from 1,406 to 1,419 students, according to a report on the Board’s actions by Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Suzanne Welsh. Swarthmore aims to enroll 383 first-year students and 14 transfer students next fall. Total fall enrollment, including those studying off campus or abroad, is expected to be 1,531 students.

Following a salary freeze for all members of the faculty and staff in fiscal 2009–2010, the College will resume modest compensation increases in the coming year. There remains upward pressure on employee benefits, the report says, but “the Ad Hoc plan mitigated this somewhat with some structural changes in health benefits and dependent children tuition benefits.”

Although the possible elimination of three faculty tenure lines—originally part of the Ad Hoc Group plan—will be deferred for several years, most departments will see further reductions in non-compensation spending. Funding for technology capital projects will be resumed in the coming year, but spending on facilities capital projects will remain at sharply reduced levels for the second of three years.

Spending from the endowment for the operating budget will increase 1.6 percent to $47.6 million, but the overall revenue from the endowment will remain at 44 percent of the budget. “The endowment has recovered somewhat in 2009–2010,” Welsh reported, “but the economy remains fragile and it is uncertain if the gains this year can be sustained.”

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