Tuesday, April 3, 2007

News: Show Me My Money

What $40 Grand Will Get You
Revenue Sources. 2005-2006

Source: The New School

By Alex Waddell

One afternoon in early March, beneath stark murals of oppression and uprising in 66 West 12th Street's Orozco conference room, students and administrators discussed The New School's $236 million operating budget at a seminar led by Nancy Steir , Vice President for Budget and Planning.

The seminar, "Developing the 2007/2008 University Operating Budget," gave insight into the challenges of financing a university in the midst of expanding and consolidating its resources. Thanks to the half-dozen Lang students in the room, the seminar was also a forum for a range of suggestions and complaints.

Steir assured that the university's budget is healthy and getting stronger every year, but did not hesitate to say that The New School's financial situation is weak compared to the universities it competes with for Princeton review rankings.

"Our finances are good, but we are not a Harvard, we are not a Yale, we are not schools that have massive endowments and large amounts of grants and gifts," Steir said. "That means we have to rely more heavily on tuition for our operating costs."

Student tuition accounts for 74% of the university's revenues, with gifts, grants and contracts comprising only 10%, money from the dormitories and health center 10%, money from the endowment only 3%, and 1% from governmental aid, reported a paper Steir wrote, distributed at the seminar.

The New School doesn't receive many government grants because, according to Steir , the majority of grants are for scientific research and The New School doesn't have a core science program. She later added that the university doesn't spend much on research, either.

Salaries and fringe benefits for faculty and administration make up 63% of the university's expenses, according to the seminar paper.

"Higher education is a labor intensive industry," Steir said, looking at the group of students. "It's all about having a faculty member teach a student and that's what we spend most of our money on."

Salary increases for full-time faculty and administrative staff are outpacing the cost of living increase. According to the seminar paper, salaries rose by 4% in 2006/2007, while the Consumer Price Index in New York rose 3.4%.

In fall 2006, The New School hired 30 new full-time faculty members and is in its second year of boosting its full-time faculty with new hires. As part of the university's general initiative to grow and integrate its largely independent divisions, many of these teachers have been hired jointly by two divisions of the university and will teach classes at both.

Despite the university's reliance on tuition, The New School's yearly tuition hike, averaged across its many divisions, has stayed within the national average of 5.5-6.5%. Tuitions for the 2007/2008 year have been recently announced on the The New School's website, with the largest increases of 7-8% at Lang, Mannes, and the Jazz and Contemporary Music divisions, and an average increase across divisions of 6%.

The amount of tuition revenue that goes back to students in the form of university scholarships, called the tuition discount rate, has also grown. "For every dollar of student tuition collected in 1983 we only gave back 8 cents in financial aid," Steir said.

Now, "25% of the amount of money we collect in tuition is turned around and spent on financial aid," she added. "So, as tuition rates have gone up we have been spending more and more money on financial aid."

While financial aid is making The New School a possibility for lower income students, tuition is nearly as high as many Ivy League schools, and has much fewer resources available to students.

One Lang student at the seminar noted that the student body of undergraduate divisions is growing dramatically, while graduate divisions have declined, and asked the administrators if they had done this deliberately.

Another Lang student suggested that many students do not support a growing undergraduate body and complained that students have not been part of the discussion.

Steir agreed that the undergraduate body is growing, but denied that it was at the expense of other divisions and mentioned that the seminar was meant to address student concerns. She asked one student if he thought that there was anything to be gained by growing in size.

"You gain and you lose," the student said. "You gain more options in classes and more professors. You lose community and you lose the sort of relationships you have with the university.”

Jim Murtha, Executive Vice President of The New School, weighed in: "Not to cite this as fact, but there is a lot of discussion, for example, that 2000 students is the right scale for a liberal arts college." He added, "We're not at that size yet and we haven't made a decision that that should be the size of Lang College, but there is a lot of discussion about that."

When asked if they could suggest any improvements on the budget, students asked for 24-hour study facilities, a student center, space and money for a student radio station, and a better sound system for the sky bridge.

The administration announced The New School has hired a consulting firm, Innovative Design Offerings, to track how university facilities are used and suggest improvements and plans for new construction and renovation. In one part of this process, students can volunteer to be shadowed by employees of the firm.

One student asked for a list of every investment of the endowment and the names of the companies and individuals behind every gift, grant, and contract. Administrators gave a basic description of the variety of ways the endowment is invested and said that information about most of the university's gifts, grants, and contracts will be available in the forthcoming 2006/2007 Annual Report.

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