Campus News

Bowdoin College Trustees Approve 1999-2000 Budget

Story posted March 15, 1999


March 1, 1999, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The Bowdoin College Board of Trustees on Saturday approved a fiscal 1999-2000 budget of $75.4 million, up 5.8 percent from the current budget of $71.3 million. The budget includes a 4.3 percent increase in the comprehensive fee and a 5.7 percent increase in Bowdoin's student aid budget.

The comprehensive fee, which accounts for 65 percent of Bowdoin's total revenue, will increase by $1,295 from $30,180 to $31,475. The increase surpasses the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but is in keeping with increased costs experienced at institutions of higher education. CPI measures inflation as experienced by urban consumers in their day-to-day living expenses. It provides a way for consumers to compare what a fixed market basket of goods costs this month with what the same market basket costs a month or a year ago. But colleges and universities purchase a very different "basket" of products and services than households, and the cost of these increase historically at a sharper rate. Salaries and benefits (colleges are largely people-driven enterprises), information technology services and equipment (which must be upgraded and expanded to keep pace with advancing technology), maintenance of buildings on a 204 year old campus, library acquisitions, and scientific equipment for laboratories all increase at a higher rate than most consumer items. (Congress has recognized this discrepancy and has endorsed a recommendation by the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education to develop a new "Higher Education Cost Index" to more accurately reflect the costs experienced by colleges and universities.)

Even with a higher rate of increase than the CPI, tuition at independent colleges and universities almost never covers the cost of education. In fact, student fees at Bowdoin have consistently covered only two-thirds of the total cost per student. The average full cost per student today is about $45,000 compared with a "sticker price" for tuition and fees slightly above $31,000. The additional annual revenues needed by the College are raised through income from Bowdoin's $363 million endowment, from donations, and from government and private grants.

The market value of Bowdoin's endowment continues to grow. Bolstered by the $136 million raised during the College's New Century Campaign, the endowment has doubled in five years and stands among the 100 largest college and university endowments in the country. It is however, considerably less than endowments at other highly selective colleges with which Bowdoin competes for students (Swarthmore: $834 million; Williams: $769 million; Middlebury: $618 million). Stated another way, Bowdoin's endowment per student is about $230,000, while endowment figures for Swarthmore and Williams are $575,000 and $360,000 respectively.

Bowdoin's student aid budget, which will account for nearly 14 percent of College spending in 1999-2000, will grow from $10.3 million to $11.5 million. Approximately 38 percent of the student body receives grant financial aid from Bowdoin, with an average award of approximately $16,000. In the last five years, College funded student aid expenditures have risen at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent. At Bowdoin, undergraduate grants represent 80 percent of the average student aid package (i.e., grant, loan, work). The College works to minimize the amount of indebtedness of its graduates, providing an average annual loan amount per student of $3,500.

The increase in the student aid budget will permit Bowdoin to continue its practice of "need blind" admissions for 1999-2000. This practice allows Bowdoin to admit the most qualified students without regard to their ability to pay. The College will also participate in the National Merit Scholarship program with initial scholarships of $750-$2000 offered to 15 first-year students, and will not reduce the amount of financial aid awarded to students who qualify for a $1,500 tax credit under the new Hope Scholarship program.

The budget approved by Trustees allows for 18 additional full-time equivalent staff positions, of which four positions will have no budget impact because they are reclassifications of positions previously budgeted. Most of the new positions are related to expanded programs and new facilities (e.g., six housekeeping positions).

The newly approved budget also fully supports the "4-5-6" targets for faculty salaries that aim to pay Bowdoin faculty the average of the fourth, fifth, and sixth highest paying colleges in a group of 18 institutions used for comparison purposes. Salary and wage increases for administrative and support staff not only recognize merit but also achieve the equity goal of paying non-faculty employees at the 50th percentile in relevant labor markets. Major maintenance and capital projects, excluding new construction such as the Memorial hall and Searles Science Building projects, are funded at $2.95 million, with $1.4 million earmarked for building integrity projects.

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