How Barnard Spends Your Tuition Money

By Sarah Lipkis

On November 28th, SGA held a town hall meeting and invited Greg Brown, Barnard’s Chief Operating Officer, and Bret Silver, Vice President of Development, to speak on how Barnard College spends its students’ tuition money and to discuss the current state of Barnard’s finances. The presentation used statistics from the 2011 fiscal year as an example of Barnard’s financial considerations.

Is Barnard rolling in the green? Not so much.


Brown began by discussing Barnard’s sources of revenue. In 2011, Barnard’s revenue was around $151.5 million—78% came from tuition and room and board, 6% from the endowment, 6% from government institutions, and the rest from expendable gifts.

Operating Budget

Brown then explained Barnard’s operating budget, which in 2011 was approximately $154 million. Half of Barnard’s budget generally goes to paying salaries and benefits for Barnard employees. Public safety and clerical employees belong to unions whose pay increases are negotiated annually (pay increase for non-union workers is based on a merit system). Additionally, salaries and benefits need to be competitive in order to attract high caliber administrators and professors. During their first year a faculty member makes approximately the same amount of money that they would at a similar college, such as Smith or Dickinson. Salaries sometimes need to be adjusted, however, to maintain the salary’s competiveness for the faculty in light of New York City’s high cost of living.

After salaries and benefits, the second largest cost, taking up about 21% of the operating budget, is financial aid. Mr. Brown emphasized that Barnard prides itself on its commitment to providing those in need with financial aid. According to Brown, an average member of the class of 2011 will graduate with $17,000 in debt, which is lower then students at many other universities.

As for the rest of the budget: 3% is allocated towards the Columbia agreement, which allows Barnard students access to Columbia University resources; 5% goes to the upkeep of the facilities; another 5% goes to debt servicing (essentially interest payments); 2% goes to study aboard programs; and finally the last 14% of the budget is allocated toward non-personnel expenses.


Bret Silver talked about fundraising during 2011, from which Barnard received about $19.6 million. The College gets this money in a variety of ways including general donations (a senior donating $50), major gifts (an alumnae donating a large sum of money) and planned giving (money being bequeathed to Barnard in someone’s will). Overall, money raised from fundraising is either allocated towards expendable funds for the year or put towards the endowment.

Financial Aid

During the course of the evening, both Brown and Silver highlighted how financial aid and the endowment are handled at Barnard. According to Brown, about half of the student body at Barnard receives some sort of financial aid; 39% of those students receive aid directly from the college. In the last ten years, the financial aid given by the college has increased at a faster rate then increases in tuition. This indicates that for the average student receiving financial aid, the amount they end up paying to the College has decreased. Nonetheless, this poses a problem for students that are not receiving financial aid.

While Barnard is entirely committed to giving financial aid to students who need it and more people have requested and are receiving aid this has contributed to an increase in annual revenue. The money for financial aid comes from varies sources of revenue: 14% is covered by the endowment, 71% by operating budget, 14% by federal and state governments, and 1% from outside gifts. Silver explained that even though a new campaign is being launched to increase revenue from alumni donations money brought in by fundraising has not increased. This means less revenue is available for further increases in financial aid or other projects.


Compared to other colleges, Barnard’s endowment is small. Barnard draws from its endowment on a yearly basis to account for 6% of the budget (which is a common practice). An outside investment firm manages the rest of the endowment. The endowment is like a safety net: it is there if the college needs it, but it is not a main source of revenue. After the recession during 2008 and 2009, Barnard’s endowment dropped however, it is currently back to its regular level.

Protest Response

Advocates of Occupy Columbia University argued against and expressed their anger over the new full-time enrollment policy, as well as changes in meal plan policies. They also noted a lack of student involvement and transparency in Barnard’s budgeting process.

When asked about the significance of the policy change in terms of the college’s budget, Brown confirmed that the policy will make a difference. He explained that, for the last few years, the budget has been tight, and students that pay less tuition result in a decrease in revenue for the college. A part-time student policy also affects Residential Life’s ability to fill dorms with full-time students. Rather than a part-time student occupying a dorm room, a student that graduates early can be replaced with a full-time transfer student to balance the amount of revenue generated.

Overall, the operating costs of the College are growing at a faster rate than the College’s annual revenue, and over the next few months various aspects of the budget will be changed in order to reflect growing financial difficulties. Brown and Silver suggested that money from the senior fund should be used in a constructive fashion to help the larger community, like when the class of 2008 established a fund as part of financial aid to make sure students would be able to get home in case of an emergency. Brown and Silver also emphasized that student involvement is important, and more avenues should be created for student voices to be heard. Mr. Brown elaborated, however, by saying that he believed that even though students should not have input in every aspect of the budget, it is constructive for students to have a say on matters dealing directly with student life on campus. Silver ended by saying that he hoped that after graduation everyone would continue to be committed to Barnard, whether through financial donations or some other form of involvement.

When asked for her impressions, SGA member Sarah Steinmann stated that overall she was happy with how the town hall meeting went. The student turn out was unusually high and she was glad that both Greg Brown and Bret Silver were so gracious as to take the time to talk to students and explain to them how Barnard spends its money.

Sarah Lipkis is a junior at Barnard and Photography Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.


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