William Lucas

For more than a quarter of a century Bill Lucas, Vice-President of Finance and Administration, has stood in front of student leaders to present the University operating budget, but it has been the last 24 months that has created a headache that only his June 1 retirement could wash away.

“It is not business as usual,” said Lucas, to a group of student leaders in the McGrath Commons of Campus Ministry. “Our economic climate challenges us to keep our tuition increase moderate while enhancing our financial aid, and funding our strategic initiatives.”

The moderate increase in tuition, as well as room and board was set at 4.2 percent, roughly the same as Fairfield’s peer group of colleges which includes: Villanova, Quinnipiac, Scranton, Holy Cross, and Loyola, in addition to other. The total cost of tuition, room and board for students living in tradition resident halls will increase from $48,170 to $50,190.

“We set our own price [tuition] but we also took a look at our competition and marketplace,” said Lucas. Almost every institution has had their tuition either cut, froze, or increased by less 2 percent, according to Lucas. Over the last ten years the University has traditionally increased tuition by a rate of 6 to 7 percent, but has hovered just above 4 percent the last two years to reflect the economic downturn.

Much of the recent the University budget crunch has been created by the recent decline in endowment donations. As a result, endowment spending has declined.

University President Jeffrey Von Arx said many potential donors have said, “I want to give to Fairfield, I will give to Fairfield, just not right now.”

According to von Arx, although additional spending is small, the University has to stay true to the strategic efforts he has outlined. He stated that supporting the faculty through compensation, supporting financial aid efforts, and supporting student programming, are at the forefront of the budgets most important task.

The University plans to allocate the $3.2 million more to compensate the faculty and staff. Employees making over $100,000 a year will not receive a raise. All other faculty and staff will receive an increase of 1.5 percent.

Lucas said the budget committee, which produces develops the budget that is than approved by the University board of trustee, has increased this year, to include more student and faculty input. The two students on the committee were David Axelrod ‘10, FUSA Secretary of the Treasury and Lauren Johnson ‘11, FUSA’s Vice President for this year and next year.

“From my standpoint the experience was very educational,” said Axelrod. “It really was a holistic process,” in reference to how each part of the University was involved. He stated how throughout the whole project, the students were of the utmost concern.

Because of the struggling economy, this marks the second consecutive year that the University decreased the budget. Perhaps the financial issue that has become most visible has been the layoffs on campus. Lucas said they expect to layoff employees but no more than ten.

“We really want to position ourselves for the fiscal year FY12,” said Lucas.

A year from now, the University does not know where the economy is going to be, but we do know the University is going to have to think about how to balance yet another budget.

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