By Grace Arenas
Elm Staff Writer
The effects of the recession have been widespread, and colleges have not been immune. Across the nation, schools have reduced expenditures, fired staff, and made significant budget changes. Washington College, however, has managed to avoid many such setbacks and began this academic year with a sound budget.
Chief Financial Officer James Manaro, says that the current budget is “the best in the four years [he’s] been here.” Manaro credits admissions, faculty, and athletic departments for working to increase enrollment.
Enrollment has increased; a goal of 400 incoming freshmen was surpassed with a total of 454 new students arriving on campus. High enrollment in the current economy is a major factor in determining the soundness of the budget.
Nevertheless, there have been changes to WC’s finances. According to Provost Chris Ames, WC has “frozen 12 vacant staff positions, reduced virtually all operating budgets, frozen all salaries for one year and only included a one-time ‘bonus’ in second year.” Additionally, he said that budget cuts make funding new initiatives and programs more difficult.
“It’s been a tough couple of years,” Ames said.
Although WC is facing challenges, they are being dealt with as efficiently as possible.
“Many colleges dealt with the decline in revenue caused by the recession by freezing some or all of their vacant faculty positions,” Ames said.
He explained that these methods would be inappropriate at WC. Ames wrote in an e-mail, “many colleges dealt with the decline in revenue caused by the recession by freezing some or all of their vacant faculty positions, but we didn’t think that was prudent at WC for two reasons: 1) our enrollment stayed pretty steady from 08-09 to 09-10, so we had just as many students to teach; and 2) we already operate with a relatively small faculty and small departments, so frozen faculty vacancies would have had a significant negative effect on the academic program.”
According to Manaro, the caliber of the school as a whole remained a top priority when deciding how to minimize spending.
“We tried to do things in a way that would not be detrimental to the academic quality and the quality of operating services for the college,” he said.
In keeping with this goal, WC did not make many of the changes other schools found they had to; none of the staff was laid off, and no employees were furloughed. Over $400,000 in health insurance costs were incorporated into the budget, rather than be passed on to employees. Student opportunities were preserved as well; while many schools were forced to reduce study abroad options, WC kept its in place.
Concerns for the future remain. Manaro said that the market “has been so volatile” in the past few years when it usually has been a place for people to gain resources to make tuition payments. Financial aid has consequently increased, but with no guarantees WC will have to continue maintaining a sound budget as it has this academic year.