Operating budget includes funding for critical staffing

The Board of Trustees Jan. 24 adopted a 2004-05 operating budget of $900 million that includes funding for critical staffing needs across the University.

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 ... focus on staffing needs that are essential both to sustaining our excellence and reducing work-related strains on our dedicated instructional and administrative staffs," Gutmann wrote in an introductory letter to the report along with Joann Mitchell, vice provost for administration and executive secretary to the Priorities Committee. The group recommended allocating just over $2 million to fund its highest priority requests and to present an overall balanced budget.

According to the report, the committee's primary goal this year was "to consolidate the impressive gains made by the University in academic excellence over the past several years by strengthening the infrastructure necessary to sustain this excellence in all those areas -- which range from graduate student teaching to facilities maintenance to academic and nonacademic administration -- where essential staffing needs have become indisputably evident."

In recent years, the University has designated funding to increase undergraduate financial aid and graduate student stipends, to augment the library acquisitions budget and to ensure the competitiveness of faculty and staff salaries. Other major initiatives in the past two years have included increased resources for University Health Services and the Frist Campus Center as well as funding for the construction and renovation of residential and academic buildings.

The small increase in staffing in select areas recommended by the committee for next year "follows logically as well as chronologically" from these recent successes, the report said. Areas designated for funding for staffing in 2004-05 include undergraduate admission, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, human resources, public safety, athletics, health services, facilities, information technology, public affairs, University services, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Office of the Dean of the Faculty.

In recommending a balanced budget for the coming year, Gutmann and Mitchell noted, "We remain in a strong financial position but we are also aware that, unless uncontrollable expenses such as energy costs stabilize and University income streams develop more robustly, we will need to reduce the rate of growth of our expenses."

Tuition and financial aid

For 2004-05, the committee recommended a 4.5 percent increase in the rate of tuition, room and board, which the trustees also approved. The rate of increase is the same as last year's, and is lower than the average national rate of increase last year in both public and private institutions. According to the College Board, tuition and fees increased 6.0 percent at four-year private institutions and 14.1 percent at four-year public institutions in 2003-04.

"The committee is steadfast in its commitment to recommend as low a rate of increase in tuition and fees as is consistent with sustaining Princeton University's overall excellence," the report stated.

The report 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.

"Undergraduate financial aid has been among the fastest growing components of the University's budget due to our unsurpassed program, the increasing economic diversity of our student body and the downturn in the economy," the report stated.

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 a record 52 percent of the class of 2007. "Our recommended budget anticipates that more than half the students in future classes will receive financial aid," the committee said in its report.

The average scholarship for Princeton students on financial aid is nearly $24,000 in 2003-04, and some students receive much larger amounts -- scholarships of $35,000 or more. Even the students whose families can afford to pay full tuition at Princeton receive something of a discount, since the tuition they pay covers only about half of what their educations actually cost the University to provide.

Princeton's undergraduate charges will increase next year to $38,297, which is expected to be one of the lowest rates among its peers. Tuition will be $29,910, an increase of 4.8 percent; room will be $4,315, an increase of 5 percent; and board will be $4,072, an increase of 1.8 percent. The committee also recommended an increase in the undergraduate admission application fee from $60 to $65. The fee is waived for those applicants who cannot afford to pay it.

Graduate tuition will increase by 4.8 percent -- the same rate as last year -- to $29,910. Room and board charges will vary according to graduate students' housing and dining plans, but will increase at rates similar to those for undergraduates.

In its report to Tilghman this year, the committee recommended that the operating budget include faculty and staff salary increase pools that are "somewhat smaller than last year." "Based on the data presented to it, the committee determined that salaries for faculty and staff continued to be very competitive," the report stated.

The committee also recommended an addition to the University library's budget for the acquisition of serials, books and electronic resources. The funds are intended to "ameliorate the impact of rapidly escalating costs of serials and periodicals as well as expenses associated with securing materials for emerging fields and new programs."

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

Contact: Ruth Stevens (609) 258-3601