As hard times grow harder, Bowdoin is tightening its belt.
While the current economic crisis has severely limited the expansion of facilities, faculty, and other college programs, President Barry Mills said that the College is economically "secure."
"The message is that all of our staff positions are secure, all of our faculty positions are secure," Mills told the Orient. "Our financial aid support is secure, and that fundamentally, everything that we're doing, everything that comprises the core strength at Bowdoin is secure."
However, Mills said it was unlikely that the College would renovate facilities or expand the ranks of faculty in the near future.
"We are going to be looking hard at expansion of program at this point," he said. "Expansion of programs adds cost at a time when clearly our endowment is not going to grow at the same kind of rates it has in the past."
The College plans to finish building the hockey rink and fitness center—two projects that are already underway—but Mills said that the pace of facility upgrades "will diminish considerably."
While funds have been raised for eight of the 12 endowed faculty positions that are to be added through the capital campaign, Mills said he is "not highly optimistic that I'm going to raise the money for the additional four in the short term."
Mills said he is confident that the College will reach the $250 million capital campaign goal by June 30, 2009. Even so, the four remaining endowed faculty positions will not be funded unless gifts are made specifically for them, according to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley.
Additionally, the College has decided not to go forward with the implementation of a new student information system, which would include online course registration. So far, the College has invested less than $50,000 in the project, according to Longley. Mills said that, in all, the implementation of the program would cost $2 million in capital and between $300,000 and $350,000 in annual expenses.
Mills sighed and said, "It's just not possible."
He said that facility improvements—including the reprogramming of Smith Union, and more general renovations to classrooms—would also have to be put on hold.
"The prudent course here is not to get ourselves overextended," Mills said.
As of June 30, 2008, the end of the last fiscal year, the College's endowment was valued at $831 million, a figure that represents a 1.3 percent increase from the previous year.
"From where I sit right now, if we had 1.3 percent growth [in the current fiscal year] it would be fantastic," Mills said.
Mills attributed the College's "strong and stable position" to the rapid growth of the endowment in the recent past, which has increased more than two and a half times in the last decade, and the College's relatively small accumulation of debt, which was approximately $131 million at the end of the last fiscal year.
"If you have a lot of debt, in an environment where economic trouble hits, you can't absorb a whole lot of loss," Mills said. "There are schools out there that have a lot of debt, who are in a whole lot worse position than Bowdoin is today."
According to Director of Student Aid Steve Joyce, it is "a little soon" to know how much financial aid students will need for the 2009-2010 academic year. The student aid office is currently in the process of designing the financial aid budget for next year.
Although Joyce said that "every year we factor in the state of the national economy," he added that the figures they are working with this year are from 2008, and may not necessarily reflect the figures for 2009.
"Bowdoin will not have a limitless budget for financial aid," Joyce said. "But because it's one of our highest priorities, we want to make sure we do everything we can to make college accessible to those who are applying to college for the first time, and be sure that those who are already here can finish their degrees."
"The question will be how much can the College do, and how much more financial aid can we put into the budget line without throwing the rest of the college budget out of kilter," Joyce said.
In terms of families paying this year's tuition, Joyce said, "Families have already paid their fall bills, and I would think in most cases they made plans for the spring bill."
However, Joyce did say that "a handful of folks" have approached the student aid office, requesting additional aid for the spring semester, but he said "normally we don't get these requests until the spring bills go out."
On Thursday, Mills sent out a campus-wide e-mail with the subject line "The Economy and Bowdoin."
"Bowdoin has seen national economic distress many times in its long history, but we have never been better positioned as an institution and as a community to deal effectively with the consequences," Mills wrote.
However, Mills also wrote that "we are facing significant challenges in the months and years ahead that require clear thinking and prudent management of our resources."
Mills went on to explain that the College plans to adhere to four fundamental principles: providing sufficient financial aid, supporting the academic program and faculty, performing major maintenance, and supporting "the sense of community at Bowdoin so vital in times like these, focusing especially on our staff."
According to Longley, two of the three people who work in Capital Projects have been "put on notice." One employee has managed the construction of the hockey arena, and the other has managed the construction of the fitness center.
However, Longley said, "There's no hiring freeze."
"If a housekeeper or a dining hall employee stepped down, we would replace the positions," she said.
Longley said that Bowdoin is in "good financial shape now, but we're asking people not to grow their budgets."
"We're not going to borrow any more money," she said, explaining that borrowed money is used for new buildings and that Bowdoin will not start new construction projects in the near future.
Mills explained that the College has grown "at warp speed over the past seven or eight years" in terms of its faculty, facilities, and programs.
"And so people have come to expect that that's the standard that we should live up to," Mills said. "But I think we have to understand our economic realities. So we should be proud and secure in the stability of the place, but recognize that just like everyone else is going to have to tighten their belt, we're going to have to adjust our expectations for the future."
Adam Kommel contributed to this report.