University News

Corporation ups tuition by 3.5 percent

By
News Editor
Monday, February 13, 2012

The Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, approved an $865.2 million budget for the coming fiscal year — raising tuition by 3.5 percent — at its meeting this past weekend.

The budget reflected a 3.2 percent increase from last year, attributed to rising salaries for faculty and staff as well as growth in the University’s public health and biological and medical sciences programs, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration. Financial aid funding will also increase by 2.1 percent.

The budget will call for more expenditures than projected revenues, causing the University to draw more than $9 million from its reserve funds. Though the University has “set aside reserves” for exactly such a situation, Huidekoper said it must work in future years to “close this gap.”

“This is a constant question in all of higher education,” she said. “I don’t think Brown’s alone in that revenues are slow, and expenses aren’t.”

Huidekoper added that the University will look to expand its revenues by implementing programs in coming years like professional master’s degrees, which target professionals seeking to change careers and are meant to turn a profit for the University.

While Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 said the University is “not in a position where there’s extra money floating around,” he expressed concern about raising tuition each year. Last year, tuition increased by 3.5 percent after increasing by 4.5 percent the previous year.

“I don’t think that tuition can keep going up for several percent a year forever,” he said. “It may reach a point where we can’t as an institution afford to keep increasing tuition.”

But Schlissel and Huidekoper both said the financial aid increase would minimize the tuition hike’s impact on the composition of the student body.

The University will rely on an endowment payout of about $104.9 million — a payout larger than the Corporation usually approves.

“The board is saying, ‘We know it’s tough times, so we know we’re paying out a little higher than we’d like to, but given everyone’s facing tough times, we think this is a time we might want to use it,'” Huidekoper said. A higher endowment payout will mitigate the University’s reliance on tuition, she added.

Corporation members also discussed the ongoing dialogue between the University and the city, establishing its commitment to “working with the mayor, the governor and the other universities and nonprofits in Providence to try to help the city fix its chronic budget problems,” Schlissel said.

But especially given the revenue shortage, Schlissel noted the importance of finding a solution that does not place “undue financial strain on Brown itself.”

“We want to help the city, but we have to do it in the context of what our budget will allow, along with other nonprofits, including the other colleges in Providence,” he said.

The budget also marked the end of federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided more than $40 million to the University for research, said Vice President for Research Clyde Briant.

“We’ll struggle to make up for that decrease in research funding,” Schlissel said.

Projects funded by the act will “come to an end,” Briant said, though he and Schlissel both said they hoped faculty members would look for new external funding.

The Corporation approved the creation of two new research-related positions — one in the Technology Ventures office and the other in the Center for Computation and Visualization. The former position will emphasize helping faculty members develop research that can be patented for business ventures, while the latter will look to help faculty members in social sciences and humanities use the University supercomputer for data-based research. Both positions should be filled by fall, Briant said.

The Technology Ventures  position will work primarily with engineering faculty members, Briant said. He added that he hopes the position will emphasize more profitable research discoveries for the University.

Increasing patentable discoveries could also help supplement University revenues, Schlissel said, potentially “diminishing our reliance on tuition.”

The Corporation also approved $28.6 million in gifts. The School of Engineering received a total of $19.5 million in gifts, including $9 million to fund three endowed professorships.

The engineering gifts will allow the school to start planning physical expansions, said Dean of Engineering Lawrence Larson, though he said further funding is necessary before any projects can actually get underway. Physical expansions could take the form of renovations to existing space or the construction of new buildings.

Depending on how fundraising goes, these projects could begin in the next three to five years, Larson said.

The Corporation-approved budget also includes additional funding to the School of Engineering for lab space renovation and expansion of the engineering faculty. These appropriations should increase the variety of engineering disciplines available and allow more students the opportunity to conduct research in the field, Larson said.

During the weekend, Schlissel also updated the Corporation on the athletics discussion and on continuing work related to the Brown Institute for Brain Science.

Schlissel said the University plans to cut 20 recruiting spots from sports teams over the next three years and will encourage coaches and admissions to keep the average athlete Academic Index — a measure based on SAT scores and GPAs — above the league minimum. Schlissel added that the University intends to raise coaches’ salaries by $1.1 million over two years. Half of the increase was included in this year’s budget, and the other half will be in next year’s. The Corporation also approved renovation of athletic facilities, a project Schlissel said will particularly benefit the field hockey team. The renovations should be completed by the next academic year, Schlissel said, though the University has not yet finished raising the funds for the renovations.

The University intends to add seven faculty positions to the Institute for Brain Science over the next three to four
years, Schlissel said, as well as funding further research equipment for the Institute.

The Corporation’s Committee on Facilities and Design agreed to have a Slavery and Justice memorial constructed on campus. The memorial will be designed by Martin Puryear, a black sculptor whose work has been displayed in the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Museum of Modern Art.

The Corporation also approved $56 million to go to undergraduate housing renovations. It did not make public any new information regarding the ongoing presidential search.