Editorial: College budget decisions deserve careful scrutiny

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Author: The Occidental Weekly Editorial Board

 

Many colleges and universities in poor financial situations have been forced to make difficult decisions to stay afloat. And as quickly as these institutions make budget cuts or raise fees, students file their complaints.

The fiscal situation that Occidental College faces is far better than those of many other comparable colleges. Occidental has done quite well, with its balance sheet in good condition and little  debt. With that in mind, students at Occidental should scrutinize any services being cut, or fees added.

At the same time, however, the structure of our long-term financial planning means that the college could be in for some more challenging times. Students must be aware of the reasoning behind certain unsavory cuts before immediately tearing them down as unnecessary or unfair.

Occidental’s endowment, which, historically, has been considerably less than those of similar institutions, took a hit during the recent financial crisis. The college draws from its endowment by taking an average of the returns from the past five years, meaning that the coming fiscal year is likely to require some of the most extensive belt-tightening measures for some time as it will be the first in which the entire draw will come from recession years. If cuts have to be made, or fees raised, those changes will be due to a genuine fiscal need.

Students should also see these cost-saving measures as important for the college’s long-term ability to support students of all economic backgrounds. Already the college offers significant financial aid; by making short-term cuts for long-term gains, Occidental will remain capable of offering as much aid as possible. The dream of once again being need-blind in our admissions process would require a serious influx of donations beside yearly cost savings.

This is not to say students should excuse each and every fiscal policy the college proposes. The student body should look critically at the college’s financial decisions and decide judiciously whether those decisions serve Occidental’s long-term goals or not. Above all, we should not make snap judgments whenever a program is cut or a fee goes up—sometimes it may just be necessary or better for the college in the long-run.

 

This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the Editorial Board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community. 

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