How Lafayette’s classes, professors and programs get funded

A+Budget+Planning+Committee+will+be+formed+to+guide+the+budgeting+process.+%28Photo+by+Emma+Sylvester+25+for+The+Lafayette%29

A Budget Planning Committee will be formed to guide the budgeting process. (Photo by Emma Sylvester ’25 for The Lafayette)

Gilad Evans, Contributing Writer

A year-long effort that determines the financial means for divisions on campus, the budget process, is integral to the college but remains largely unknown to the student body.

Craig Becker, the interim vice president of Finance & Administration, described the budget process as one with overlapping phases that ultimately repeats itself every year. 

“Budget development phase starts in the late summer financial planning effort that helps guide development of the future year budget,” Becker wrote in an email. “Key assumptions for tuition rates, compensation, capital needs and the like are modeled.”

The tuition rate is set in early fall, providing a “competitive advantage” for Lafayette’s admissions team and allowing prospective students and their families to be cognizant of the college’s cost of attendance, according to Becker. The budget preparation phase typically follows between the fall and spring. Budget calls are then issued, and budget requests are prepared by in November or December. The budget is finally formulated in late winter or early spring with the operating and capital budgets presented to the Board of Trustees in May.

Becker added that the workforce was their largest expense and “greatest asset.” Salaries and wages alone make up 40% of the budget. Financial aid makes up another 25%. Regarding how these decisions are made, Becker noted a strategic direction adopted in 2016 that prioritizes a focus on the faculty-to-students ratio keeping up with enrollment growth.

“Ultimately, the budget is formed and consistent with the president’s directives,” Becker wrote. “Budgetary decisions are guided by three priorities: sustaining the excellent liberal arts and engineering education for which Lafayette is highly regarded; supporting the faculty and staff that are integral to delivering that education; and preserving the flexibility necessary to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. The College’s long-term financial health can be best preserved by adhering to these priorities.

Associate Dean of Students and Director of Recreation Services Jodie Frey also described some of the crucial details behind how different divisions of the college approach the budgeting process, such as how certain programs are funded or having their aid taken away.  

“So if you’re falling short in any way, whether it’s because you feel like you feel like you need to provide more money in student wages, or you need to spend money on group fitness instructors…you need to get that money from somewhere,” Frey said. “Each year when you decide how to spend your money, you have to decide: does this help us reach our goals and outcomes?”

At the forefront of any considerations are the employees, Frey said.

“We have to balance how often our employees want to work during the exam week and what are our student needs during exam week,” Frey said, adding that sometimes they had to open as early as 9 a.m. “[Employees] like to work out before they get to work, but we have to make that decision based on our priorities.” 

With so many departments and projects requiring funding, oftentimes, those being funded are sometimes not fully satisfied.

“The reality is that resources are limited and unmet needs and requests for new initiatives are boundless,” Becker wrote. “The budget must balance competing demands as the College is challenged to provide adequate resources for new initiatives and unmet needs in an environment in which there is significant uncertainty.”

To mitigate some concerns from dissatisfied members of the community, Becker and his team are creating a new committee, co-chaired by himself and Provost John Meier.

“As part of our budget development efforts, we are forming a College Budget Planning Committee as previously announced by President Hurd,” Becker wrote. “This is a campus-wide advisory committee charged with guiding the College’s budget development process.”

Despite community concerns the current priority for the Lafayette budget committee, per Becker, is to focus on developing the 2023 operating and capital budgets.