November 27, 2003
Antioch College is facing a $700,000 budget deficit, college President Joan Straumanis announced at the Antioch community meeting Nov. 18, during which she asked students for advice on how to solve the problem.
In addition, the co-op department will have a separate deficit of $40,000 to $50,000, which the administration is considering countering by reducing the stipends students on co-op next spring would receive. Faculty member Jim Keen, a member of the college’s Administrative Council, said that AdCil voted against this proposal, but he noted that AdCil is an advisory body and does not hold decision-making power.
“We have a problem, we don’t have a crisis,” Straumanis said.
She asked everyone on campus to consider the deficit in proportion to Antioch’s total budget of $18 million and said that she believes the college is improving. “Don’t take this discussion to be signs of a weakening institution,” she said.
Under the proposal to reduce co-op stipends, students on local co-ops or co-ops that are independently set up would not receive stipends; students working elsewhere in the U.S. would receive $200; and students working abroad would receive $500.
Currently all students on co-op in the U.S. receive a $300 stipend, and those working abroad receive $800.
Mavis Gruver, the college community manager, said that the reduction in stipends would only affect students on co-op next spring.
The co-op department’s deficit resulted from many students changing their co-op sequences this year, so more students needed stipends last summer than had been anticipated. Now the college has insufficient funds for stipends next spring.
Co-op faculty member Tom Haugsby said last week that Antioch has a problem budgeting for sequence changes from one fiscal year to the next because the college’s budget doesn’t roll over.
Straumanis attributed the overall deficit to several factors, including the college’s decision to borrow $200,000 from a reserve fund last year, which needs to be paid back. In addition to that debt, Straumanis said, the cost of health insurance for employees has increased, and Antioch has overspent its financial aid budget.
She also said the Antioch University Board of Trustees has mandated the college get out of the red.
Antioch guarantees that students’ financial need will be met, but this year more students in need of financial aid enrolled than Antioch had anticipated, Straumanis said.
Straumanis said that she has been looking for ways to make up the budget shortfall. There will be no salary increases this year, she said, and the college is selling 22 acres of land on the south end of town.
She said that health insurance co-payments and deductibles for college employees will be increased this year. Senior staff have agreed to make cuts to departments, she said, and AdCil has discussed using money from the current endowment campaign to pay off part of the deficit.
In the October report to the Board of Trustees, Straumanis reported that the college is reconsidering its 2003–04 budget in an effort to avoid a recurrence of last year’s budget deficit of $1.29 million.
Straumanis said in the report that the college experienced a “total student-related revenue shortfall of $525,062” during the first quarter of the current fiscal year. Some tuition waivers granted to students, however, may be replaced with restricted scholarships, she said, bringing the tuition shortfall down to around $400,000.
Straumanis also said that spending for the remainder of the year must be cut to below first-quarter levels if the budget is to be balanced.
Straumanis said that currently “the largest single source of budgetary imbalance” at present is the growth in the number of tuition waivers granted to meet students’ financial aid needs.
Student reaction to the news was mixed. Some expressed gratitude to Straumanis for explaining the situation, while others were upset by the short notice given of the proposed stipend reduction.
One student suggested that the college cut stipends next summer instead of this spring, to give students more time to find funds to compensate for the reduced money.
Straumanis said that if stipends are reduced, the college would offer no-interest loans to make up the difference. She also said the cuts probably couldn’t be made in the summer term because Antioch’s fiscal year ends on June 30.
Students were also concerned about whether Antioch would maintain students’ financial aid packages if aid spending is cut. Straumanis said that enrolled students would receive the same level of aid, but new students would not be eligible for full financial aid.
Students had a variety of ideas for saving or raising more money. Several suggested turning down the heat in the dorms, which many consider excessively hot. Environmentally friendly practices, reducing vandalism on campus, prohibiting smoking in dorms and increasing fundraising efforts were also suggested.
Some students suggested another sequence change to offset the one last summer. Haugsby said that moving some of this spring’s co-ops to the summer would solve the immediate problem, but not the overall challenge of more students co-oping during some terms than others, which makes job placement more difficult.
Straumanis and Haugsby both appeared determined to sort through the budget problem. Straumanis said that “this kind of conversation gives me so much hope.”
Haugsby told the audience that the co-op department would try to make the transition as smooth as possible for students working next spring. “We’ll do everything we can,” he said.
—Evelyn La Croix