On Tuesday, the faculty senate of the College of Charleston convened for the first time in many years to discuss concerns with the school’s budget from the past fiscal year. The seats of the Wells Fargo Auditorium filled quickly with faculty and staff. A panel of four experts sat at the front, including Executive Vice President of Business Affairs Steve Osborn, Assistant Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid Jimmie Foster, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Robert Cape and Director of Athletics Joe Hull. Each expert presented information on their particular field of expertise as it related to the College’s budget, followed by a question and answer period for the faculty senate. President Glenn McConnell started out the meeting with a few words.
In his opening speech, McConnell assured the attendees that “the College is not in financial jeopardy,” and that “we are making these adjustments to remain fiscally sound going forward.” McConnell also dispelled the rumors of enrollment issues at the College, citing data given by the Office of Admissions. “It is clear that students want to come to the College of Charleston.” He closed his speech reminding the faculty that only through shared governance can decisions be reached that will help the College reach its goals.
After President McConnell addressed the faculty, the four panelists stood up one by one to present their data to the attendees. First up was Steve Osborn, who broke down the school’s budget and explained where the College’s operational finances come from. He revealed that by far the greatest source of income for the school was tuition, at $160,000,000.
Jimmie Foster was next, showing data from the Office of Admissions on student enrollment on both resident and non-resident students. The numbers revealed rising tuition costs over the years, with resident enrollment numbers rising and non-resident numbers holding steady. Ultimately, Foster’s data concluded that while the College is not lacking in application numbers, there has been a fall in total yield of students year to year. In other words, less students are enrolling – and staying – at the College of Charleston.
Third on the panel was Robert Cape, who addressed specific faculty queries on budget goals and usages. Cape revealed that over the last 10 years, the primary goal of the College’s budget has been to build an information technology organization designed to be used by faculty and to make staff more successful at their jobs overall.
Finally, Joe Hull concluded by presenting information on the various successes and challenges with the athletic budget, discussing primarily the asset that the athletes are to our school as a whole. Once Hull concluded, the floor was open for questions by the faculty.
During the questions, faculty members voiced their concerns with budget deficits, particularly those of the athletics department. One faculty member pointed out that 12% of student fees goes toward athletics at the College of Charleston, asking Athletic Director Hull “at what point is this too much to ask every student to pay, not so they can use the gym, but so that these teams can all exist?”
Hull responded “if you look at schools that look like us, we are charging in the bottom half of public schools in the Colonial Athletic Association, we are cognizant of the issue and try every year to keep costs down.”
Another faculty member highlighted the concern of a $600,000 deficit three years ago in 2012 by the Department of Athletics, asking Hull why the department overspent by that much. Hull informed that the seemingly large deficit was due to an exit fee charged by the Southern Conference when the College left and joined the Colonial Athletic Association. He assured the faculty that although it looked like a deficit from an accounting standpoint, the money was, in fact, there beforehand.
Students continue to wait for more information as the budgeting of their tuition dollars continues.