Board approves operating budget for 2003-04

The Board of Trustees Jan. 25 adopted a 2003-04 operating budget of $850 million that includes special funding for a number of areas ranging from University Health Services to the library to information technology.

The trustees acted on budget recommendations from President Shirley M. Tilghman, based on the recommendations of the Priorities Committee of the Council of the Princeton University Community . The committee, which is composed of faculty, staff and students and chaired by Provost Amy Gutmann, has served as the mechanism for recommending fiscal and programmatic priorities for more than three decades.

"Our recommendations ... can be summarized as doing our best to constrain the growth of tuition, room and board while providing the most urgently needed staff positions to health services, stemming the erosion in purchasing power of the library acquisitions budget, enhancing the security of the University's information technology resources and supporting other important requests that are essential to enhancing the quality of the Princeton experience," Gutmann wrote in an introductory letter to the report.

In recommending a balanced budget for the coming year, Gutmann noted that "the generosity of our alumni and friends has placed Princeton in a very strong, indeed enviable financial position" despite economic pressures the University has faced. She cautioned, however, that "unless University income streams develop more robustly than is currently expected, reductions in expenses (which might include slowing down the rate of building renovation) or further increases in the rate of growth of tuition may be necessary."

For 2003-04, the committee recommended a 4.5 percent increase in the rate of tuition, room and board, which the trustees also approved.

"While the rate of increase recommended for this year is higher than the rates recommended over the past several years, it is lower than the average national rate of increase last year in both public and private institutions," Gutmann said. According to the College Board, tuition and fees increased 5.8 percent at four-year private institutions and 9.6 percent at four-year public institutions in 2002-03.

"Because Princeton is committed to maintaining as strong an undergraduate financial aid program as possible, the committee is confident that this rate of increase in tuition and fees is fully consistent with the University's leadership position in ensuring that its excellent education is affordable to all students who merit admission to Princeton on a need-blind basis," Gutmann said.

She noted that the financial aid budget will be increased enough to cover these additional charges for students on aid. Students on aid only pay what they can afford, and the University has significantly enhanced its financial aid program in recent years to make a Princeton education even more affordable. Improvements have included replacing loans in financial aid packages with grants, decreasing the required annual contribution from student savings, eliminating home equity from the calculation of family assets and admitting international students on a "need-blind" basis.

The percentage of students on financial aid at Princeton increased from 38 percent of the class of 2001 -- the last class admitted before the improvements -- to 50 percent of the class of 2006. The overall percentage of undergraduates on financial aid is expected to climb as additional classes enter under the enhanced program.

"The budget we are recommending fully funds the existing programs and expects that we will continue to be able to attract incoming classes more than half of which are on financial aid," Gutmann said.

Princeton's undergraduate charges will increase to $36,649 next year -- which is expected to be one of the lowest rates among its peers. Tuition will be $28,540, an increase of 4.8 percent; room will be $4,109, an increase of 5 percent; and board will be $4,000, an increase of 1.8 percent.

The average scholarship for students on financial aid is more than $23,000 a year, and some students receive much larger amounts. Students whose families can afford to pay full tuition cover about half of what their educations actually cost.

Graduate tuition will increase by 4.8 percent to $28,540. Room and board charges will vary according to graduate students' housing and dining plans, but will increase at rates similar to those for undergraduates.

Salaries, other initiatives

In its report to Tilghman this year, the committee recommended that the operating budget include a "modest additional sum" for faculty and staff salaries. This sum will augment a salary pool that will be the same size as last year. The committee stated that a proportion of the pool will be used to address "the most critical needs of merit and equity."

The committee also evaluated requests for growth or changes in existing programs as well as new initiatives. It recommended allocating $1 million to fund some of the highest priority requests. Among the requests recommended by the Priorities Committee and approved by the trustees are:

  • $324,000 to hire a senior staff psychologist and a physician for University Health Services as well as to fund other pressing needs in that area resulting from a rapidly increasing caseload.
  • $200,000 to supplement the University library's budget for the acquisition of serials, books and electronic resources.
  • $150,000 to add a technical staff member and to strengthen the University's efforts to secure its information technology resources.
  • $67,500 to augment support for the Graduate School by hiring a residence life coordinator for the Lawrence and Butler apartments and to increase merit stipends for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences.

    The Priorities Committee report is available online as well as from the Office of the Provost.

    Contact: Ruth Stevens (609) 258-3601