Isn’t it pathetic that, while Williams is going through its biggest financial crisis in 25 years, no outsider knows the total, much less the details, of this year’s budget? Yes, it is!

As a service to the Williams community, here is some data on the recent history of the College’s finances, via financial statements and this 2002 report. Numbers are in millions and the fiscal years end on June 30.

Year  Operating Expenses Tuition Revenue Shortfall
2008          177                61         116
2007          164                59         105
2006          154                56          98 
2005          140                55          85
2004          137                53          84
2003          130                49          81 
2002          129                46          83          
2001          116                46          70
2000          108                47          61      
1999           99                NA 

There is probably a disconnect between these numbers around 2002/2003 since I get them from different sources. The jump from 129 to 130 in spending is smaller than normal, although it could be that the College was belt-tightening in conjunction with the 2002 bear market. Reasonable people will differ on just what is included in “operating” spending, and the College may very well change its classifications over time.

For pre-2003 data, I add “Renovation, Repair and Adaptation” to “Operating Expenditures” in the 2002 report because I think that this makes the total consistent with the 2003+ data. I estimate the tuition revenue for pre-2003 by subtracting “Scholarships & Fellowships” from “Student Charges.”

Comments:

1) The key issue is that Williams has been increasing spending year after year while not raising after-aid tuition nearly as much. Since 2000, spending is up 74% compared to a 30% increase for student revenue. As long as the bull market roared, that was a sustainable policy. Now, it’s not. Almost all of the shortfall is made up by annual giving and endowment income. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get the data on those numbers to get a sense of the problem. We need an annual endowment number and a spending percentage.

2) When the Record reported that the College’s “operating budget” for 2008–2009 was $216 million, I was immediately suspicious since, after relatively steady growth over the last decade, it would be strange for the College’s budget to suddenly go up by 22%, especially in the year after the endowment was flat.

I followed up with the Record. Editor-in-Chief: Kevin Waite ’09 writes:

Checked with Lenhart and he says that total current expenditures are set at $216M this year. This includes operating expenditures, capital renewal spending and debt interest payments among a few other things. He says last year’s budget was around $200M.

So looks like operating expenditures are a good deal lower than $216M (probably closer to the number you published) making our article incorrect. Since we’d be a week late on running a correction, you can use what I told you here on Ephblog to correct our mistake.

Happy to help. I still wish that the Record would gather the necessary information in one handy table. Is that too much to ask for? And, of course, the College itself ought to make this data easily accessible and intelligently organized. It is almost impossible for any outsider (even members of the faculty) to have an informed opinion about the seriousness of the financial crisis at Williams without this sort of information.

3) If last year’s budget (2008) was $200 million under this definition (i.e., $23 million more than the $177 published in the financial statements) then one guess at the 2009 number that would be comparable would be the reported $216 million minus the same $23 million, or $193 million. That would represent 9% growth, more than I would expect but not implausible.

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