DON’T PANIC: Lewis & Clark isn’t going broke. Rumors have been circulating that this year’s smaller freshman class will cause significant budget cuts for several aspects of campus life. However, according to the LC financial office, these rumors don’t reflect what is actually happening.
It is true that this year’s freshman class is significantly smaller than last year’s, with only 514 freshmen enrolled at LC in 2016 compared to 654 in 2015. This year’s smaller class size was at least partially caused by increased enrollment in other academic institutions.
For example, this year the University of California decided to admit more students than in previous years. According to Roy Kaufman, the Director of Public Relations at LC, this decision likely reduced the number of students that applied to LC in 2016, since nearly 30 percent of LC students come from California.
“There are decisions that are made all over the country that constantly affect this pool of prospective students,” Kaufman said. “External factors affect our admissions process, which affects our revenue.”
While there is less revenue from tuition this year than there was in the 2015-2016 academic year, the shortfall is very small, and it lands comfortably within the margin of error projected by the budgeting department.
“We require each of the three schools — the law school, the graduate school and the undergraduate school — to budget to a positive two percent margin. That allows us to take these ups and downs and smooth them out a little bit,” Alan Finn, Vice President for Business and Finance and Treasurer of LC, said.
One of the steps the financial department is taking to counter the smaller enrollment is a process Finn calls a soft hiring freeze. In other words, if staff members leave their jobs at LC, the vacant position may not be filled immediately depending on how important it is to the well-being of the students and the institution as whole. In most cases the position will still be filled eventually, but not the moment it becomes vacant.
“That saves us a couple of months of salary and benefits in that fiscal year,” Lisa Meyer, Dean for Enrollment and Communications at LC, said.
Not all positions are eligible for a soft-hiring freeze. For example, when the Director of the Advising Center left LC earlier in the year, her position was filled as quickly as possible since that department directly impacts the LC student body.
No individual students or student activities will be impacted by the shortfall.
“Chief priority is always student experience,” said Meyer. “We don’t want to harm teaching, advising, student affairs or student living. Those are priorities.”
“It’s a completely manageable deficit,” Finn said. “The college is not in any type of financial crisis.”