Board of Managers Approves $8 Million
in Budget Adjustments
by Nancy Nicely
On Saturday the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College approved a proposed $8 million budget adjustment [PDF] recommended by its Ad Hoc Financial Planning Group. Last December, amidst an historic economic downturn, the Board had projected a possible $15 million budget adjustment due to an expected 30 percent decline in the endowment and a projected increase in the financial aid needs of students during the recession. Since then, having given the campus community a full year to develop its response plan, the stabilizing financial markets enabled the Board to reduce the charge to $8 million in adjustments to address the budget shortfall.
Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Suzanne Welsh noted that "We started our budget adjustment process back in the fall of 2008 when the full impact of the market collapse became apparent. In the past year, we have been able, as a community, to develop a plan to resolve an $8 million budget gap, returning the budget to financial sustainability while still preserving Swarthmore's distinctive qualities. The College is remarkable in its ability to inspire collaboration and consensus, and in this case, we did so as we were also undergoing a change in leadership. "
President Rebecca Chopp, who began her tenure with the College in July, said, "My first experience in working with the community on a major issue confirmed everything I believe to be true about Swarthmore. We are devoted to the preservation of core values such as academic excellence, accessibility and need blind admissions, support for students, the balance of common good and individuality, and the thoughtful stewardship of the endowment for present, as well as future generations."
The agreed-upon reductions were developed by the Ad Hoc Financial Planning Group in consultation with the community at large. The Ad Hoc Financial Planning Group was formed in March 2009 in order to develop and recommend budgetary plans to respond to worsening economic conditions. The approved adjustments include no layoffs and preserve the College's commitment to a need-blind admissions process. The Ad Hoc group's deliberation process included many public meetings to engage the community in collaborative decision making.
The recently approved initiatives mark the second phase in the College's response to economic conditions. In the 2008-09 academic year the College committed to defer all non-essential construction work, to refrain from initiating new programs, to stringently evaluate any faculty or staff hiring, and to freeze the wages of faculty and staff for the next year.
"We had many suggestions from the community of how to save money and how to do things more efficiently and more effectively," said President Chopp. "We found opportunities to make Swarthmore better in the midst of restructuring our budget. The issues were, and are, very difficult but we are committed, as a community to working together for the future of this very special college."
Watch President Rebecca Chopp and Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Suzanne Welsh discuss the state of the College's finances following the Board's decision.