February 16, 2005
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
Despite a record number
of applicants and a growing reputation as one of the nation's
top urban liberal arts schools, Trinity College is under orders
from its new president to close a $10 million deficit and adopt
a new sense of financial discipline.
"There has been difficulty with overspending here for years
and years," said James F. "Jimmy" Jones Jr., who
has ordered a campuswide effort to control expenses in everything
from buildings and grounds to the admissions office.
The private college in Hartford has put maintenance projects
on hold, kept some jobs vacant and asked staff members to limit
expenses as the school tries to close a budget gap projected
to reach $10 million next year.
The college already has sliced $3.5 million in expenses this
year after the deficit caught many by surprise and spurred a
review of the college's financial status, including its fund-raising
Academic departments have been largely spared so far, but the
college has not ruled out asking professors to teach extra classes
next year or even to accept a pay freeze.
"We flat out, for a very long time, have had a culture
here of spending whatever we thought we needed to," Jones
said, "and expecting the nice folks in the business office
to pull a rabbit out of a hat."
Part of the problem is that Trinity's $364 million endowment
is well below that of other liberal arts colleges in New England
such as Williams and Amherst. In the past year, Trinity's endowment
did not grow as rapidly as that of many of the colleges it considers
Getting a handle on spending has been made more difficult by
a frequent turnover in administration. Jones is Trinity's fifth
president in five years, counting interim administrators after
the departure of Evan S. Dobelle in 2001 and after the brief
presidency of Richard H. Hersh in 2003.
The college, which enrolls
2,400 students and has an annual budget of about $110 million,
formed a committee that meets weekly to address the deficit. "The more we studied it, the more
worried I got," Jones said.
Some projects have been put on hold, such as the installation
of new lights in a science building and the upgrading of an air-conditioning
plant. Small budget items, such as a $20,000 marketing program
for high school sophomores, are among dozens of cuts.
No savings is too small, Jones
said. "Do you buy another
photocopier or use the one down the hall?" he said.
The school expects to hold its tuition increase next fall in
the same range as in the past few years, he said. Tuition rose
5.7 percent this year, pushing the full cost of attending Trinity,
including room and board, over the $40,000 mark for the first
Jones, in his first year at Trinity, brought the financial issue
to faculty, staff and students after reviewing quarterly expenses
in the fall and finding that spending was running ahead of schedule.
Across the nation, other colleges have confronted similar deficits.
Smith College in Massachusetts, for example, cut some faculty
and non-faculty jobs, revamped its dining program and made other
budget cuts last year.
"A number of institutions have gone through this kind of
belt-tightening and have moved forward nicely," said David
L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent
Colleges and Universities. "It's important to note Trinity
is not laying off anybody nor eliminating any [academic] programs."
The slumping stock market in recent years, along with rising
costs in health insurance, technology and building construction,
has contributed to the financial squeeze, he said.
Students are not likely to notice any immediate change in classroom
programs, officials said.
"We're determined not to cut the meat out of the academic
enterprise here," said Frank G. Kirkpatrick, interim dean
of faculty, who, like others, was surprised when Jones outlined
"I had no knowledge of any of this," Kirkpatrick said. "Among
the faculty, I don't remember anybody hinting there was a problem." He
has asked faculty to consider savings wherever possible, even
to watch expenses in areas such as taking job candidates to dinner.
Jones also has bolstered Trinity's fund-raising operation, including
the recent hiring of a new vice president, Ronald Joyce, a respected
fund-raiser at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, to head
Trinity's development office.
One of Joyce's challenges is to build Trinity's endowment.
"We're competing with people who have significantly larger
endowments," said Paul Raether, chairman of Trinity's board
of trustees. "The board has clearly identified this as a
Jones arrived at Trinity with a strong reputation as a fund-raiser.
He had been president at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, where
he launched a successful fund-raising campaign and led efforts
to renovate the campus.
Raether praised Jones for
openly confronting the budget deficit, saying it is a problem
that has surfaced in the past. "The
board and finance committee knew last year that it was a horse
race at the very end to have a balanced budget," he said. "Frankly,
people were told to cut expenses, and it wasn't being done."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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