While a handful of students protested the upcoming tuition increase in Kogan Plaza Wednesday, administrators are stressing the academic and student life merits of next year’s budget, which will be announced Friday afternoon.
The University will present its budget priorities and expected revenue numbers, including tuition figures, to the Board of Trustees for approval Friday. The board is set to approve the revenue numbers and will receive a finalized University budget at its May meeting.
University academic and student life officials said technology, 4-RIDE and financial aid will be among this year’s priorities.
“Financial Aid is a big priority … it’s the single biggest item in terms of what our needs are,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, noting that GW boosted aid by $9 million last year. A higher unemployment rate, a smaller average family income and asset depletion led the University to increase aid this year, he said.
GW sent an emergency $500,000 to the financial aid office this winter after the office depleted its resources last fall. Chernak said the University is estimating that the $11 million increase will be sufficient.
The University plans to increase 4-RIDE funding by 50 percent to $500,000 next year because of increased demand for the service. Use has almost doubled this year, according to University Police Department numbers.
He added that the University is also looking to add machines to the Health and Wellness Center and give Disability Support Services a funding increase.
Chernak spoke about a University plan to improve customer service by enabling students to use technology to do more administrative tasks, a more professional GW help desk and better trained staff within departments.
A part of the University Strategic Plan, the customer service initiative is a GW “commitment,” and Chernak said he hopes the school can begin to implement better service throughout the course of next year.
“What we are trying to do is have a customer service desk like at Nordstrom’s,” Chernak said. “Whether you have a problem with the shoe department or any other department, your problem will be taken care of. That’s the type of concept we are looking at.”
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said adding to the Gelman Library’s collections and standardizing classroom technologies are the University’s two academic priorities that “top the list” for next year. Other priorities include providing money for a new freshman writing program and boosting graduate student teaching stipends to at least $15,000.
Lehman said a “priority that has to do with international business” put together by the School of Business and Public Management is “very likely” to get funding as well. He said all deans put in their requests concerning their priorities.
Although the library received a $1 million increase two years ago, it received a salary pool increase last year and no extra operating budget funds, which are used for increasing collection size, electronic databases and other expenses.
Jack Siggins, University librarian, said the library is requesting a $335,000 budget increase to cover inflation-driven rising prices of collections.
GW’s increased enrollment also bumps up electronic journal prices, which are based on the number of students at a university. Siggins said at the Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month that with possible increased enrollment from a potential trimester system, funding is key.
“No good university can be top-ranked without a (top-ranked) library,” Siggins said.
He also noted that the printing fee did not provide any extra revenue.
A freshman writing seminar, which a randomly selected third of incoming freshmen will enroll in for the fall, will receive its “first segment” of funding, Lehman said. The course will replace English 10 and 11 and focus more intensively on writing.
Another part of the University’s strategic plan, the freshman writing workshop, is one of several initiatives to improve GW’s “academic excellence.”
Professors said focusing on academics is key in planning budget priorities.
“The academic side is the heart of the University,” said Lilien Robinson, chair of the Faculty Senate.
William Griffith, chair of the committee for fiscal planning and budget, said the committee’s concerns include adequate space for classrooms and laboratories, libraries and the number of tenured and tenure-eligible faculty members.
Griffith said the University has put several faculty members on temporary contracts because of an increase in undergraduate enrollment, and the committee is “very concerned about … decisions of which will be permanent positions.”