Flagel holds town hall-style discussion
Following Student Union President Ricky Rosen's '14 State of the Union address in the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium on Monday, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel led a town hall meeting about the University's fiscal year budget.
Flagel was joined by Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid and Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Marianne Cwalina.
During the presentation, Flagel explained the University budget to the audience, including the University's revenues and expenses. According to Flagel, the revenues were composed of 40 percent undergraduate tuition and fees, 13 percent graduate tuition and fees, two percent continuing programs tuition, eight percent room and board, 10 percent endowment support, four percent annual giving, four percent restricted gifts use, 13 percent sponsored programs direct revenue, three percent sponsored programs indirect revenue and three percent other income.
The expenses budget totaled $394.6 million-a four million dollar deficit-and was comprised of 18 percent staff salaries, 11 percent faculty salaries, three percent student wages and support, seven percent benefits, 19 percent operational expenses, six percent depreciation of buildings, three percent interest on the total debt, 12 percent sponsored research, 14 percent undergraduate financial aid, seven percent graduate financial aid and 0.2 percent continuing programs financial aid.
A significant point of the presentation was the inclusion of financial aid in the charts. "Normally, when Universities present the expense and revenue budgets, they don't include financial aid," said Flagel. He explained that this occurs because aid is generally considered a discount as opposed to an expense. This method was "more intuitive," according to Flagel, and showed the true revenue and expenditures.
Flagel later said that the budget is "not wildly dissimilar to other institutions." Aid and salaries make up the largest portion of University expenses, said Flagel, and the University is "really tied up in [that] portion of the budget;" thus, it would be difficult to reduce spending in these areas.
Following the presentation, Flagel opened the floor to questions from anyone present. When asked how the budget compared chronologically to past University budgets, he said that the "percentages are fairly similar from year to year," and "you don't see much of a shift." Flagel did note that the University has exceeded its revenues for many years, and thus been required to pull funds off of the endowment in approximately a five percent yearly rate.
One attendee raised a question regarding tuition and possible increases. Flagel responded that he "[did] not have a specific number, but the [fiscal] model tries to keep tuition increase below four percent [each year]. ... How much we spend on dining, on housing, et cetera ... all are components of trying to make sure that we're keeping Brandeis accessible."
Flagel further clarified that the fiscal model's goal is not a price point, but to make sure that the University is not excluding talented students from attending Brandeis. "That's a tremendous challenge in a fiscal model to provide, so [the administration] want[s] to find the best ways possible to preserve the Brandeis experience but make it accessible," he said.
After receiving a question about why Brandeis charges regular tuition to students studying abroad, even though their programs may have cheaper costs, Flagel responded that Brandeis' model for study abroad is to either mark a student as on sabbatical, which Flagel said is popular among other institutions, or "pay our fee, [full Brandeis tuition] and stay enrolled at the University and still have access to all the things you would have access to as a student."
When asked how the University is planning to respond to the recent Boston Globe article that criticized the compensation package for President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, in light of the budget deficit, Flagel responded that there "isn't much we can do about an article."
He noted that the main issue was one of fairness to the administration, and stated that Board of Trustees is "very concerned" and will "continue to look into this matter." He also said that two undergraduate and graduate representatives to the Board would carry the voices of the student body to the Board.
The History of Ideas program, which was the center of a scandal accusing the University of mishandling a donor's money for the program, was also brought up at the meeting. After being asked about the situation and what was being done, Flagel told the audience that "all the funds that come in from donors are maintained with extraordinary ethical standards."
He later added that "not everyone who was engaged agrees with the decisions that were made," but that "in terms of maintaining the integrity of the donor's wishes, all of that has been taken care of."
In an email to the Justice, Rosen stated that "having a forum such as the town hall meeting last week ... is a tremendous first step towards more budget transparency." Rosen further stated that the student body "[has] the right to know why our tuition is increasing ... and whether Brandeis as an institution is responsibly managing its funds."