University travel costs below peers

The University spent $15.1 million on travel expenses in fiscal year 2009, financial disclosure documents show, significantly less than peer instutions.

University Treasurer Lou Katz was unable to provide specific information about the exact number of trips, the most frequent destinations or most common travelers, due to the way records are kept, as much of the data is not computerized.

The University’s market basket schools significantly outspent GW on travel expenses. Boston University spent $19.9 million on travel in the 2009 fiscal year, while New York University spent $62.9 million.

Syracuse and Northwestern universities also surpassed GW’s spending, disclosing $28.8 million and $45 million respectively for travel expenses during that year. The University spent slightly more than Tulane University, which disclosed $13.8 million in travel expenses.

Representatives from Boston, New York and Tulane universities didn’t return requests for comment, and a spokesperson from Northwestern University declined to comment on the institution’s financial disclosure form.

Travel expenses include transportation and accommodations for students, staff or faculty traveling on University business. This metric includes athletics, seminars, conferences, international partnerships and research travel, Katz said.

“As the institution continues to grow…you’re going to see travel expenses grow,” Katz said.

The expense also includes the cost of bringing academic guests to GW.

“A sample of some of the trips shows that we also bring in researchers to the University to conduct work,” Katz added.

The University’s travel expenses lag behind other similar schools because of its urban location – a perk that cuts down on the need to travel to conferences in the District, Katz said.

“Needless to say, I don’t travel to Washington anymore,” Katz laughed.

The University spent $16.1 million on travel in fiscal year 2008, financial documents from that year show. Fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30.

“Depending upon the type of research funding the university receives in any given year, travel may be more or less than a previous year,” Smith said of the variation. “GW serves as a coordination site for many conferences and events that require us to host forums in a variety of venues, thus the variation in travel expenses.”

The expenses included three reimbursements for a spouse to travel, although Katz noted the vast majority of cases do not include expenses for couples to travel together.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith could not provide specific information about those occasions on which University administrators were reimbursed to travel with their spouses.

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