Budget report finds Macalester is "financially sound" for 2011-2012

By Kyle Coombs

At the campus-wide presentation of the 2011-2012 Macalester budget on Wednesday in JBD Lecture Hall, Vice President for Administration and Finance David Wheaton opened by stating that “the college is financially sound.””Welcome to the ninth annual presentation of the budget to the campus community,” he said to the nearly 50 people in attendance. “For those of you familiar with these presentations I will start my PowerPoint with the same bullet I do every year, ‘The college is financially sound.'” The presentation showed that the college is facing a four percent increase in expenses with a three percent increase in income. However, the college also has a reserve of $2.2 million from the 2010-2011 year and can easily cover this uneven increase in expenses and income. For 2011-2012, the reserve will decrease, but remain at $1.8 million because of increased tuition and attendance levels over the last two years. This reserve stems from an increase in enrollment to 1,958 students this year from 1,936 last year, he said. Wheaton said that people criticize the college for maintaining this reserve instead of allocating all available funds. “People sometimes ask, ‘If we have more students, then we have more money, then why don’t we spend it all?'” he said. Wheaton said that the budget is based on the expectation that the enrollment levels would drop in 2013 and 2014 when the current freshman and sophomore classes graduate. In December of 2010, the Sustainable Operations Task Force reported that this drop in enrollment will decrease in income over the next few years. Wheaton said that the college could allocate all funds in the next academic year, but as income fell with enrollment levels in 2013 and 2014 the college could maintain spending at these levels, Wheaton said. A member of the Task Force on Budget, Doug Rosenberg, the Director of Budget & Institutional Services, said that the reserve lets the school maintain its current expenses, in case the incoming freshman class has only 400 students. “The last thing we want to do is give something and then take it away,” he said, “whether it be a job, pay increase or programming.” The budget presentation was one of four different presentations that Wheaton conducted in a 48 hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday, said his administrative assistant Kenneth Tivey. Wheaton presented at the faculty meeting on Tuesday, MCSG Tuesday night, the public on Wednesday, and the President’s council on Wednesday night. “It is an attempt to alert the whole of the campus community without preference,” Tivey said. “So everyone has about as much info as everyone else at the same time.” Wheaton said that presenting the budget openly is a major priority. Wheaton said he tries to be as knowledgeable as possible about all topics concerning the budget so that he can appropriately address everyone’s questions. Mary Morse Marti ’82 attended the presentation for the first time on Wednesday. She said the presentation was very informative and fascinating. “I am just fascinated by college economics,” she said. Morse Marti’s son Max Marti was admitted to the Macalester Class of 2015, but she said that they are unable to afford the tuition. While they will need to pay nearly $50,000 at Macalester, she said that the University of Minnesota in Morris and the Twin Cities would be around $20,000 in tuition. “It isn’t that we can’t afford it,” she said, “but the value proposition is not there. I keep investigating what it would be about a Macalester education that is worth $30,000 extra a year.” In his presentation, Wheaton included a statement that the Macalester tuition will increase 4.5 percent during 2011-2012, which is more than the three percent average of its peer institutions like Carleton College.