2006-07 budget completed; to be approved by Board

By Brian Martucci

The Board of Trustees is set to vote March 3 on Macalesterƒ?TMs $72.3 million operating budget for the 2006-2007 academic year, the first to take the collegeƒ?TMs new need-aware admissions policy into account. Several areas of the budget will see significant changes, including study abroad allocations, the endowmentƒ?TMs contribution and long-term staffing expenditures.The amount the college sets aside for study-abroad and other off-campus programs will rise 16 percent, to nearly $3 million next year.

According to Treasurer David Wheaton, this increase is a function of last yearƒ?TMs unusually high demand and the rapidly rising costs of many popular study-abroad programs. ƒ?oeHistorically weƒ?TMve seen between 206 and 220 students studying abroad each year,ƒ?? he said. ƒ?oeLast year we had 250.ƒ??

Wheaton said that after discussing the matter, college officials have decided to treat last yearƒ?TMs spike as an anomaly rather than the first wave of a new trend. The proposed budgetƒ?TMs 16 percent increase allows for 230 semester-long study-abroad slots at next yearƒ?TMs anticipated costs. Unusually high demand or an unexpected rise in study-abroad costs would place the collegeƒ?TMs study-abroad program in a tight spot for the second year in a row, Wheaton explained.

According to study-abroad coordinator Katherine Yngve, the exact costs for next yearƒ?TMs study-away programs have not yet been calculated.

Although it jumped 12 percent in value from last yearƒ?TMs levels, Macƒ?TMs $524 million endowment will be contributing only 3 percent more to this yearƒ?TMs budget.

ƒ?oeThat small increase is normal,ƒ?? Wheaton explained. ƒ?oeWe take 5 percent of a 16-quarter moving average [of the endowmentƒ?TMs value]ƒ?? to protect against sudden losses.

During the early 1990s, Macalesterƒ?TMs endowment was valued higher than any of its 40 peer institutions. Its poor performance during the rest of the decade left its value near its peersƒ?TM average, although it has begun to rebound in the past two years. The endowmentƒ?TMs total contribution to the budget peaked at $25.5 million several years ago and now stands at about $24.9 million.

The 2006-07 budget will also begin to address the collegeƒ?TMs general staffing shortage. The numbers suggest that Macalesterƒ?TMs student-staff ratio, 5.5 to 1, is currently the highest of its peer institutions.

ƒ?oeWe try to run the place pretty lean, which on balance is a good thing,ƒ?? Wheaton said. ƒ?oeBut weƒ?TMre still short of where weƒ?TMd like to be.ƒ??

While gross tuition receipts will rise 10 percent for the 2006-07 academic year, financial aid awards will increase only 7 percent, resulting in a net tuition receipt increase of 12 percent. According to Wheaton, the schoolƒ?TMs new need-aware policy is responsible for this sharp increase.

Aware that the policy remained controversial, Wheaton stressed it would only apply to a small percentage of the applications that the college receives each year.

Unlike St. Olaf and Carleton College, for example, Macalester has set no specific ƒ?oetargetƒ?? number of students it would like to admit on a need-aware basis. ƒ?oeIt depends entirely on who actually comes through the admissions pool,ƒ?? Wheaton said.

Despite rising tuition rates and lingering concerns about study-abroad costs and need-aware admissions, all indications show that the Trustees will approve the budget.

Wheaton presented the figures last week to the Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) on Tuesday, the Presidentƒ?TMs Council and the monthly faculty meeting on Wednesday, and an open faculty forum in John B. Davis Lecture Hall on Thursday.

The presentations provoked ƒ?oethe best budget discussions weƒ?TMve had in the four years Iƒ?TMve been here,ƒ?? Wheaton said.