Budget Discipline

By Lawrence Goodman / March/April 2010
March 23rd, 2010
Facing a 26 percent decline in the value of the University's endowment, the Brown Corporation in February approved a $787 million budget for FY 11 that pares $30 million from expenditures through staff layoffs, a wide range of operational budget cuts, and a slowdown in spending for new capital projects. The budget also raises undergraduate tuition and fees 4.5 percent. (Tuition and fees for grad students will go up 4.9 percent, while medical students will have to absorb a five percent increase.)

Spending will go up in a few areas, however, most notably financial aid, which will increase 6.5 percent to $81.5 million, raising the average undergraduate scholarship to just under $31,000. (The increase follows last year's 11 percent financial-aid rise.) The Corporation also lifted last year's freeze on faculty and staff salaries and approved pay increases of 4 percent for faculty and 3 percent for staff. In addition, donors have signed on to fund the overhaul of a former factory in Providence's Jewelry District to create a new home for the Alpert Medical School.

The $30 million budget reduction follows last year's $35 million cut, and is part of an long-term strategy to reduce Brown's budget by $95 million before the end of 2014. The measures are in response to a 26 percent drop in the value of Brown's endowment, which now stands at around $2.2 billion.

The cuts coincide with a University-wide organizational review that has sought to reduce redundancies in Brown's operations and eliminate obsolete technologies and practices. About 140 employees accepted early retirement, and a still undetermined number of jobs will be eliminated. The University's planned faculty expansion has also been slowed.

In a statement issued after the February 27 Corporation meeting, Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch '76 said none of the cost-cutting measures jeopardizes the quality of education at Brown or the University's long-term strategy of expanding the ranks of the faculty.

"While the economic environment for higher education remains extraordinarily difficult," Tisch said, "the Corporation and administration are absolutely resolved to ... continue to invest in the core elements of Brown's academic excellence."

University officials declined to say how many layoffs there will be. "We have tried to minimize the number of layoffs by targeting many vacant positions for elimination, offering a voluntary retirement incentive for staff, and encouraging the hiring of displaced employees in open positions that are being filled," President Ruth Simmons said in an e-mail sent to members of the Brown community.

Additional measures planned to cut costs and increase revenue include:

--Expanding total undergraduate enrollment by thirty students. To avoid diluting the freshman experience, these thirty additional    undergrads will be transfer students.

--Imposing a new $64 annual fee for undergraduates to access Brown's recreational facilities.

--Closing The Gate café on the Pembroke campus for lunch from Monday to Friday and reducing the menu selections at the Ivy Room, which is located on the floor beneath the Ratty.

--Centralizing the various departments across the University that handle event planning and graphic services.

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March/April 2010