Board of Trustees Approves Budget for Next Academic Year

14 February 2024

Last week, we hosted members of the Board of Trustees for their February meeting. While on campus, many of them also took advantage of the opportunity to sit in on classes, which they greatly enjoy, or go to Convo or other events. Several of the Board committee meetings included presentations by students, faculty, or staff on a variety of topics.

A major agenda item for this meeting was approval of the 2024–25 academic year budget. The budget is developed through a process overseen by the Budget Committee, a college-wide committee that includes student, faculty, and staff representation. Their budget recommendation is reviewed by the President’s Cabinet before going to the College Council for approval. It is then presented to the Board for discussion and final approval. It is always a challenge to balance the many needs of a college that aspires to the excellence of Carleton with the desire to keep costs as low as possible. 

The high inflation environment of the past few years has put unusual pressure on expenses, including compensation. This is reflected in this year’s comprehensive fee increase of 5.25%, the highest increase in some years. Fortunately, we are able to mitigate the impact with an increase in the financial aid budget of 8.4%. As noted in the letter that went out to students and families earlier today, we recognize that Carleton represents a substantial investment. It is worth noting that the actual cost of a high quality Carleton education exceeds the tuition and fees we charge. Our endowment supports 31% of our operational expenses, meaning that even a student paying full tuition is receiving a significant subsidy thanks to the generosity of generations of Carls.

The trustees also heard updates on steps we are taking to move forward with implementation of Carleton 2033: The Liberal Arts in Action, including the appointment of a Campus Facilities Planning Committee. We also discussed, in an informal plenary session, the many challenges facing higher education, and higher education leaders, today. These include political attacks on efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, and critiques of how colleges and universities are handling campus tensions related to Israel and Palestine. The trustees saw evidence of the strength of some Carleton student views when Students for Justice in Palestine members demonstrated during a Thursday dinner with trustees, faculty, staff, and students.

At a moment of unprecedented scrutiny for higher education, it seems particularly important to articulate the vision of what colleges and universities seek to accomplish, and why support for this work benefits all of society, across the political spectrum. Early last week I traveled to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the major national higher education advocacy group, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and met with state legislators, including Senator Klobuchar, Senator Smith, and Representative Craig, at the Capitol. We are fortunate in having supportive legislators representing Minnesota. Nevertheless, the current polarization in Congress has its impact, so nationally-coordinated efforts to advocate for higher education will be critical in the years to come.