Provost Marc Roy attended Student Assembly on Sunday, Nov. 24 to present the
college’s recent budgetary restraints and subsequent changes with the student to faculty ratio.
About 80 students gathered in the Hyman Forum to hear Roy’s presentation, which began with an overview of the college’s financial shortfalls in tuition net-revenue.
“This year our budget has about six main areas; two-thirds of the budget comes from net undergraduate tuition and fees and housing and dining,” Roy said. “That means tuition after any financial aid you received is factored out… That’s $40 million right there.”
Roy explained that the college’s expenses must equal its revenue. Therefore, when the college budgeted for more students than the number that actually enrolled, they had to re-balance the budget. In addition, Roy explained that within the college’s $59.9 million budget, about two-thirds is designated to salaries and benefits for faculty and staff.
“A little over half our expenses are in salaries and that’s for faculty and staff, anybody employed at the college,” Roy said. “If you take salaries and benefits together that is $38 million right there out of $59 million. … all of these things are coming together at a worst-case scenario or perfect storm. As we look ahead to next year … we are fairly certain that our budget for financial aid is going to increase by 3.1 million. That’s a lot of money.”
This year’s senior class has an average 39 percent discount rate, while the first-year students have an average 54 percent discount rate. The senior staff predicts that the discount rate will rise to 55 percent for next year’s incoming class. As the senior class graduates and incoming classes need increased financial assistance, the college has to prepare for even more changes in net tuition revenue.
In a projected five-year plan, the senior staff predicts that next academic year will face a $2.4 million deficit unless they make more cuts.
“What we are doing now is beginning a strategic prioritization of programs and services,” Roy said. “[We are making sure that] we are using our resources as wisely as we can. … We need to figure out how we are going to save $2.4 million. …. [But] the last thing we want it to do is have it have a negative impact on the student experience… in or out of the classroom.”
With a deficit, Roy faces the task of cutting the academic budget by $1 million. Changes in the study abroad budget and graduate programs will provide some of the cuts, but nearly half of the $1 million will come from an increased student to faculty ratio from 8.8:1 to 10:1.
“We have, in terms of full time equivalent (FTE), … about 1,450 students,” Roy said. “Ten to 1 means 145 FTE faculty…. So for next year my best estimate as of today is that we will have 136 full time faculty, if there are no retirements. Even with decreasing the half-time faculty six positions and the part-time nineteen positions there will still be the equivalent of 151 FTE, according to Roy.
In a question and answer session after the presentation, Roy explained that the faculty members who are not returning in fall 2014 have already been notified. But throughout next year the Provost will evaluate the upcoming faculty cuts by the fall 2015 deadline.
“My focus has been, though, keeping the full time faculty and cutting back on the number of half time and part time. … We have far more part time and half time faculty than most schools,” Roy explained.
The Provost justified the cuts in the number of part time and half time faculty,by noting that most of these faculty members have other jobs and are not as available to students outside of class. But the cutback in number of faculty will cause department chairs to reduce the number of elective courses in certain majors and decrease the number of sections of courses.
“It is possible that some minors, some concentrations, some tracks will be eliminated,” Roy said, noting students already in those minors and concentrations would still be able to finish their degree.
But Roy assured the students that the administration is commited to academic quality: “We want [the quality] to remain very, very high for you.”
When the presentation was over, many students lined up to ask questions about the college’s debt and further details on the financial situation.
Billy Daly, president of the cass of 2015, expressed his gratitude to Roy for explaining the intricate details of the cuts, but he quickly expressed his frustration that the students were only finding out about this information from The Quindecim’s reporting.
“Why wasn’t this thought process laid out to the students by someone from the administration before?” Daly asked.
In response, the Provost explained that it has only been within the last few weeks that he has been able to present the information to the board and faculty. Daly then asked if Roy had planned on presenting the information to the students.
“There were [no] formal plans, it was something I was talking about to the senior staff. [We were deciding] how and when I could [present the information]. And before I could make any formal decision, you invited me here,” Roy replied.
In a separate interview, Daly, although satisfied with Roy’s answer, still expressed frustration that the issue wasn’t presented to students earlier.
“Whether or not we can be involved in the decision making process, we do have a right to be informed of the changes that are being made to our education, and moreover, to have that information come directly from the administration itself,” Daly began. “While I appreciate the fact that members of our administration like Provost Roy are willing to engage in an open conversation with the student body, I do not appreciate the fact that we have to specifically request this conversation ourselves. The fact that Provost Roy and his colleagues had no stated intention of confronting the students with this news until we contacted him directly contradicts the sense of community and inclusion that Goucher works so hard to create on this campus.”
Aside from those frustrations, there was an overall sense of appreciation that Roy accepted the Assembly’s invitation to speak to the students.
“I really appreciated that Marc Roy was willing and able to come and present to the Goucher Student Assembly on a Sunday evening,” Lenna Blaser ’14 said. “It shows how dedicated he is to the student body. I think he did a great job at explaining the budget of the college.”
Daly expressed that Roy “seemed very concerned in dispelling any perception that this decision was made in haste or without consideration of student needs and interests, and I felt he was incredibly successful in conveying that message.”
He also explained that Roy’s appearance at Assembly was essential to keeping the students involved with what is happening with the college.
“I thought he did a phenomenal job of explaining both the academic and financial situation of the college, putting it into terms that we as students can understand and appreciate,” Daly said. “It is why I so desperately wish the college would do more to explain that situation to the student body. We are here for a reason; we care about our education and about everyone who belongs to the Goucher Community. If the administration recognized that concern by including us in the discussion of the challenges that the college faces, I think they would find just how understanding and even supportive we can truly be in overcoming them.”