The Ithaca College Board of Trustees has approved increases in salary pools, tuition and financial aid but announced a decrease in revenue for the 2017–18 fiscal year as a result of the departure of the large Class of 2017.
The approved 2017–18 revenue budget of $234.5 million, which was announced on Intercom on March 7, is a 1.6 percent decrease from the 2016–17 budget of $238.4 million. The reason for this decrease is the Class of 2017 had more students than usual, so even if the fall enrollment of 2017 meets the target, overall enrollment is expected to drop, resulting in less revenue, according to the statement.
The total cost of attendance next year, which includes tuition and a standard double room with the corresponding board plan, will be $58,158. This is a 2.45 percent increase from the 2016–17 total cost of attendance, which was $56,766. This increase is the smallest in at least 70 years, as was last year’s, according to the college.
The college will budget $120.5 million for institutional financial aid, which is also the highest amount ever, according to the announcement. This amount is $2.5 million more than the $118 million budgeted last year for institutional financial aid.
Salary and benefit costs make up 58 percent of the operating budget total, or $136 million for 2017–18. The salary pool will increase by 2.5 percent, and 1.75 percent will be allocated for the full general merit pool. For the additional merit pool, 0.75 percent will be allocated. This is the same breakdown as last fiscal year.
Janet Williams, interim vice president for finance and administration, was not available for comment.
Rachel Kaufman, lecturer in the Department of Writing, said in an email that the part time–faculty bargaining committee’s proposed contract, which would roll out over five years, makes up 0.29 percent of the overall 2016–17 budget. The part time–faculty union is asking for a 42–43 percent increase over five years, which would give it pay parity to the lowest–paid full-time contingent faculty member — who makes around $48,000 a year — but at half-time, which would be about $24,000.
“I’d like to know why 0.29 percent of the 2016–17 budget, spread out over five years, is too much [to] ask to pay all our professors a fair wage for the ‘excellence in teaching’ our students deserve and our administration touts,” Kaufman said.
Tom Swensen, chair of the Faculty Council, said more money is being allocated to compensating individuals who work for the college than bringing in new revenue. He compared the 2.5 increase for the salary pool to the 2.45 percent increase in tuition.
“Given the change in tuition, the college is working hard to compensate the faculty well,” Swensen said.
Marieme Foote, president of the Student Governance Council, said the rising price of tuition needs to be addressed across higher education in general. But she said she is glad tuition is not rising exponentially at the college, considering the school is losing so many students with the graduating class. She said other issues at the college that need to be addressed are enrollment and the retention rate, which have an effect on the budget.
“If they keep tuition at the same rate, even though we’re losing a ton of students, we’re going to have to cut other things on campus,” Foote said. “So in order to maintain that stability, we’re going to have to raise tuition.”
She said that although it makes sense in the long run that the budget is decreasing so college spending remains sustainable, the decrease in the budget is still upsetting.
President Tom Rochon stated in an email that the budget reflects the college’s core values despite that a budget by its nature cannot truly capture the college experience.
“The heart of Ithaca College rests on the interaction among students, faculty and staff, and cannot be captured in a budget,” Rochon stated. “However, three core values are reflected in Ithaca College’s 2017–18 budget: the commitment to affordability for students, the commitment to providing the facilities for a first-rate educational experience, and the commitment to being a quality employer of faculty and staff.”