Members of the Faculty Senate talked about the university’s finances as well as opportunities and challenges at their November meeting.
Trends in the George Washington University’s finances from fiscal 2016 to 2017 included an increase in net assets and financial aid spending while the endowment grew and operating expenses remained steady, according to a report Friday from Professor Joe Cordes, chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Fiscal Planning and Budgeting.
Dr. Cordes also noted that that university’s ratings from credit rating agencies remain strong. However, some issues that will continue to play a role in the university’s finances include assessment of the university’s budget model, enrollment and tuition forecasts, further expense saving and the impact on schools or departments, the impact of spending on health and other benefits and revenue from investment real estate opportunities. Unpredictability on Capitol Hill is another factor, and the university could be affected by changes in tax or other policies that specifically affect universities or students.
An important opportunity with GW’s finances is that the university has investment properties that can be used to generate revenue for academic priorities. GW President Thomas LeBlanc said this type of revenue could be earmarked for making improvements to Thurston Hall, for example.
Dr. LeBlanc also emphasized that having debt “should not be viewed as a bad thing.” Taking on debt for academic priorities while interest rates are low and with a plan for paying it off is a good strategy, he said.
One important challenge for GW’s and many universities’ finances is the demand from students who need financial aid and meeting as much of that need as possible, Provost Forrest Maltzman added.
In other Faculty Senate news:
- Dr. Maltzman said the STEMWorks resource at Gelman Library has helped hundreds of students since it opened in September with tutoring and mentoring in quantitative subjects such as economics, mathematics and statistics. Dr. Maltzman also said the university will soon host town halls to discuss the student experience.
- Dr. LeBlanc noted issues throughout higher education with sexual harassment and assault and emphasized the importance of working with faculty and other university community members to look at GW’s policies “very carefully” and make any necessary updates. He reiterated he has “zero tolerance for sexual harassment and sexual assault at GW.”