Trinity students’ obligation to question budget decisions

By Evan Scollard ’17
Opinion Editor
After several critical articles, some have accused the Tripod of challenging the College to confrontation – or even attacking her. Perhaps we spaced some of those pieces too closely together, but I’d more likely suspect that our student body had just been so accustomed to stale journalism. We’d so long forgotten our duty to inform our peers of the honest truth – good or bad – that we surprised people when we began to fulfill it.
That does not make it any easier, though, for the student-journalist to write on the shortcomings of his school. We’d all rather enjoy the best qualities of our college than investigate the troubling issues. But we fail our Trinity if we agree to publish her newspaper without taking honest appraisal of the institutions. So we cover the athletic victories and the scholarly achievements, but we must too look squarely at our troubles.
In that spirit, we should address the College’s budgetary issues. We all vaguely know of the school’s financial distress, but no one investigates it too thoroughly. Students either cling to blissful ignorance or blindly trust the administration to right our ship. But as members of the community, we’re obliged to participate in her – at the very least, by staying informed.
Owing to an unexpectedly small freshman class and previous fiscal irresponsibility, we’ve come into a deficit of over five million dollars. The gap forced Trinity to scale back spending, reject an increase in faculty salary, cut staff funding, and eliminate the Summit Scholarship program. The College also put a couple million dollars less into the endowment so they could put those funds towards the operating budget. In many respects, we’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.
However, this newspaper emphasizes the problem-solution model of opinions writing. Other than raising awareness, there’s not much use for a critical piece unless it also suggests a possible solution. So we must consider how Trinity can pull herself out of dire straits.
For those staking their hope on downsizing our student body, consider that the small reduction in operating costs as we bring in less students would be offset by the drop in tuition revenue. Anyone hoping to cut faculty should recognize that as the type of short-term solution that has propelled this mess and also know that the administration has contractually agreed not to lay-off professors. Even calls to focus on increasing the endowment are woefully simplistic. From, say, a one hundred million dollar gift to the endowment we would only draw ten million dollars of annual revenue.
So instead, we have to generate new revenue at as little cost as possible. Raising tuition seems like an easy solution, but consider the feasibility. We are already one of most expensive colleges. At over sixty-five thousand dollars a year, we’ve just about price ourselves out. Even then, our peer institutions can boast better locations (and haven’t fallen in the rankings) – so how could any college senior justify paying so much more to go to Trinity over Bates or Colby?
Why not, then, increase the number of admitted students rather than tuition? Even raising our student body to just 2,400 would bring in over nine million dollars after four years of growth. The increase in overhead costs – between facilities and salaries – would be negligible. We could further offset those costs with a targeted fundraising plan, or with FSFA’s (an alumni group) plan to expand fraternity and sorority life. The nine new GLO houses that they have proposed to build with private funding could accommodate the student body’s growth, taking the burden off of College housing.
Of course, we risk accepting underqualified candidates when we just expand how many applicants we take. Accordingly, we should spend our meager budget here. If we financially prioritize the admissions department, we could muster up the recruiting campaign necessary to draw in our most competitive applicant pool yet.
At any rate, we owe our College the courtesy of staying informed and participating. I believe it just as likely that the necessary solutions come from our educated student body as from our administration.

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