Geoff Swift Discusses Impending Budget Cuts

At the beginning of January, faculty and staff were sent a letter from Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Geoff Swift asking all senior staff to reduce their programmatic budgets by five percent for next year’s budget. This, according to the letter, is to ensure the college can “retain capacity for compensation increases and are able to support areas that are growing more rapidly than our revenue base and areas where we need to invest in better services or new ways of doing business.”

According to Swift, “The goal is to minimize impact on the student experience and find more efficient ways to do what we do. Also, as noted in my community note, we appreciate the impact of annual increases to the single fee on families and want to minimize that impact. These relatively small programmatic budget cuts will assist us in that goal.”

Departments may make reductions wherever they see best, according to Swift. “The only established guideline here is that the department reduces their budget by five percent, but only within their program budgets, meaning excluding faculty and staff positions,” he said.

In the past ten years, Bates’ single fee tuition has increased between 3.0% and 3.4% each year, with an average growth rate of 3.2 percent annually. Tuition increases in comparison to peer institutions have been charted previously by the Bates Student. Tuition for 2023-24 will be announced later this spring.

Currently, tuition at Bates is $80,616, whereas at Bowdoin and Colby, respectively, tuition sits at $78,300 and $79,850. At the end of 2023, Bates’s endowment was $419 million with an investment return of -10.08%. In comparison, Colby finished the year with an endowment of $1.12 billion with an investment return of -9.2% and Bowdoin with an endowment of $2.5 billion with a -7.1% investment return.

Endowment decreases can be attributed to a declining investment environment, according to the letter. While Swift doesn’t think Bates’ financial situation is unique, pressure on colleges may be experienced differently. “A college with a greater dependence on their endowment distribution will be influenced by their expectation of investment results,” Swift said. “And schools with similar or more reliance on tuition, room, and board will have similar revenue pressures.”

According to the letter to the community, inflation prices increased utility spending by nearly $1 million over budget and Bates saw increases in food and travel expenses. Despite this, the college was able to save in other areas of the budget and welcomed many gifts and grants, resulting in a net positive result for the year.