Cuts may harm departments, rank

by Tatiana Cooke | 2/18/10 11:00pm

Correction Appended

Long term changes to the structure of the College, which include the re-institution of student loans and staff reductions, may affect Dartmouth's national ranking, the College's ability to compete against other institutions for students and the effectiveness of both academic and non-academic departments on campus.

Financial aid packages changes may alter students' college choices because of the current economic crisis, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris told The Dartmouth in April 2009. The new plan could lead more students turn down acceptance to Dartmouth to attend a competing institution with a loan-free policy, such as Yale University, Harvard University and Princeton University.

The budget changes announced last week include changes to Dartmouth's financial aid policy and the re-institution of student loans of up to $5,500 per year for families earning over $75,000 annually. The College's need-blind admissions policy remains untouched.

In 2009, 49 percent of students admitted to the Class of 2013 accepted the offer of admission, a yield drop of more than 2 percent from the previous year, The Dartmouth previously reported.

The possibility of permanently increasing the size of the graduating class by roughly 50 students to increase tuition revenue has been discussed by administrators, including acting Provost and Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt. Although no faculty are included in the College's recent layoff announcement, students at the student budget forum held Jan. 20 raised concerns about a higher student-to-faculty ratio and housing difficulties resulting from class size changes.

Student-faculty ratio, financial resources per student and faculty compensation may be affected by the budget cuts. All are criteria considered in U.S. News and World Report's college rankings, with a combined weight of 18 percent of the final rank. U.S. News most recently ranked Dartmouth 11th out of national universities.

The College's acceptance rate makes up 1.5 percent of U.S. News' total ranking. As such, increasing graduating class size could affect the ranking by pushing up the College's acceptance rate.

Recent statements by College President Jim Yong Kim focus on increasing the efficiency of College operations to cut costs.

"We have looked at every single program, every single area, including the President's office," Kim said in a press conference Feb. 8, referring to budgetary program reductions. "We have targeted reductions in each of those areas and what we can tell you again is that we tried to be as strategic as possible."

The statements suggest that the recently announced budget plan will streamline the College's administrative structure, a change that various constituencies on campus have advocated during past budget reductions.

During the budget cuts implemented in 2009, for example, Student Assembly called on the College to reorganize advising in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, based on the perception that OPAL had a limited effect on student life. The First-Year Office and Upperclass Dean's Office were also merged last year, in a move to make student advising operate more efficiently.

The process of administrative reorganization has started with the Dean of the College's Office. The College will reduce the number of departments reporting to the Office from 12 to eight, resulting in "more coherent" performance of the office in the future, acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

College administrators have also eliminated the position of Dean of Residential Life, which is currently held by Martin Redman. With the elimination of Redman's position, administrative support for the Greek system will be limited to one position: the Director of Greek Letter Organizations and Societies, currently Deborah Carney. Carney has announced that she will retire at the end of June, and the administration plans to replace Carney.

While such administrative changes are classified as "back-of-the-house," the reduced number of administrators may make it more difficult for students to access administrators and advisors, some students have said.

"In general, [there] may be less time for individual organizations, as opposed to when there were two [positions supporting the Greek system] and they could split up the load," Coed Council president Reyna Ramirez '10 said in an interview with The Dartmouth on Thursday.

Announcements made by College administrators over the past several days have repeatedly stressed that making "back-of-the-house" cuts will limit the effect of budget cuts on the quality of student life at Dartmouth. Twenty-five million of the $100 million in budget cuts will be made through "administrative reorganizing," which will focus on making College practices more efficient and cost-effective, according to College administrators.

In the past, budget cuts have made it more difficult for academic departments to function. Cuts to computing services during a round of budget cuts in 1990, for example, hurt the ability of social science departments give students access to course materials, The Dartmouth previously reported.

College administrators have also cut "non-essential" items like office supplies and computing resources from academic budgets in the past, a practice that tends to hit academic departments with smaller independent endowments the hardest.

Non-academic departments across campus, including Facilities Operations and Management and Dick's House, have seen a reduction in support staff over the past two years, both through layoffs and voluntary retirement programs. This forces administrators to find ways to compensate for decreased manpower.

While no faculty positions will be terminated and no academic programs will be eliminated in this round of budget cuts, faculty support staff may be reduced, which could affect departments' ability to deliver academic services.

The recent restructuring of the Dean of the College's offices and the Office of Residential Life are the first stages of a larger reorganization of the College administration.

"What we want to do is get to the point where instead of having to think year after year about more layoffs, more cuts, we want to get this done so we can turn our attention to the academic mission," Kim said during his announcement of the plan.

The Athletic Department will compensate for budget cuts with "creative" solutions to increase the percentage of the athletic budget covered by alumni donations, according to interim Athletic Director Bob Ceplikas. Instead of eliminating teams, existing teams will compensate for budget shortfalls by reducing travel and other non-essential expenses. Administrators have made no announcements indicating that the drastic changes made in 1990 to cover the budget gap, which included the elimination of seven junior varsity sports and the removal of the physical education requirement for graduation, will take place.

Kim's budget plan provides for $16 million of revenue to be obtained through the sale of College assets. The College has sold off some of its endowed properties to compensate for budget deficits in the past, most significantly large portions of the First College Grant, according to Leon Burr Richardson's "History of Dartmouth College."

Budget shortfalls in 2002 froze new construction, but the current construction of the new Life Sciences Building and Visual Arts Center will not be delayed by budget cuts because both projects were endowed independently of the general budget.

The College has also relied heavily on alumni donations to make up for budget gaps in the past, according to Richardson's book.

The Council for Aid to Education's Voluntary Support of Education survey announced that alumni giving to colleges and universities worldwide fell to 10 percent in 2009, the lowest percentage since the group began to gather data. Kim's plan calls for an increase in alumni donations to help with the budget cuts, but this will prove difficult if Dartmouth's donations follow the same trends as alumni donations worldwide.

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that in 1990, seven varsity sports were eliminated. In fact, seven junior varsity sports were eliminated.*