EDITORIAL: Prioritize faculty budget and tuition control
On Thursday, Sept. 22, President Ron Liebowitz, along with Provost Lisa Lynch and Executive Vice President Stew Uretsky, held an open meeting — the first of three — in which they discussed the discoveries of an outside consultant, Dr. Kermit Daniel of New York consulting firm Incandescent, on the financial health of the University. The key takeaway from the presentation was that the University is currently running at a deficit and that this deficit is unsustainable.
Liebowitz stressed that it remains his goal to be transparent with those outside of the administration and that the administration is open to listening to others.
This board encourages the University to follow through on this commitment and strive to be open and honest with students, faculty and staff in this manner, and we call upon the campus community to fulfill Liebowitz’s request for dialogue on this issue by attending open meetings and making their goals clear to the administration.
Liebowitz acknowledged that the status quo cannot survive and that the University will have to “prioritize things moving forward.”
This board acknowledges that there will be many cuts to the budget, and we encourage the student body to work toward accepting this hard truth in order to achieve a productive solution. However, there are a couple of critical areas that must be avoided in any of these upcoming changes to the University budget, and we urge students to help protect these areas.
This board believes that as students advocate for their own goals, they should keep in mind faculty and tuition as two key priorities.
The foundation to any educational institution is most certainly its educators, and this University is no different. Brandeis should focus on retaining top professors by maintaining competitive salaries.
In order to retain the highest quality faculty, as outlined in the presentation, it will take between $1 and $7 million per year from the University to be competitive in faculty salary. Regardless, this issue has to be one of top priority for the University as it addresses how and where to cut the budget as well as how to best put Brandeis money to good use.
In addition to prioritizing faculty during a period of refining the University’s finances, most members of the student body can also rally behind another issue of great concern: tuition hikes. At Brandeis, tuition increases between 3 and 4 percent every year, and these increases do not seem to have an end in sight.
During the presentation, the University reported that adding enrollment would provide only a slight increase to its revenue.
This board is concerned that instead of increasing enrollment or acquiring more donations, the University will turn to raising tuition as one of the only means available to increasing its revenue. Tuition is already at a price that makes it impossible for most students to afford it without some sort of financial aid.
This board understands that the University must increase tuition every year, as comparable to the national average among universities, but it is imperative to recognize that any attempt to supplement the budget with additional increments of tuition hikes beyond 4 percent is infeasible and unfair.
On Sept. 26, Liebowitz reaffirmed this, telling the Justice in an email, “There is little more we could do to generate more revenue from tuition. Our annual increases need to be reduced over time, lest we price out too many excellent students from applying to Brandeis. Ideally, we need to reduce our dependency on tuition and reduce annual increases. That’s a goal.”
This board acknowledges that the University is in a difficult financial situation and therefore must make tough — and likely unpopular — decisions as it seeks to remedy its money problems.
However, we urge administrators and other decision makers in this process to keep in mind the needs of the University’s main responsibility: its students.
Tuition hikes higher than the national average and the loss of great faculty would be deeply counterproductive to students’ needs and higher-education goals.
Consequently, as the University makes plans to improve its financial health, it must prioritize these two things. In order to ensure this, students should seek to hold the University accountable.
Additionally, the University must carry out Liebowitz’s stated goal of transparency.
No matter what, the University will have to make some difficult decisions in order to handle the deficit, but these decisions will become even more difficult if students, faculty and staff are not on the same page with administrators.
Facing this tough situation as a united front will make solving the problem easier for all involved. In order to create this united front, the University must provide the greater community with proper notice and explanation of any major changes in the budget. Careful prioritization, collaboration and transparency are crucial to making this bad situation manageable.