Bard College at Simon’s Rock Responds to Economic Downturn
GREAT BARRINGTON, MA—“Over the years we have built a beautiful physical campus and an exceptionally strong academic core,” the Provost of Bard College at Simon’s Rock said on Tuesday, “and now, in this volatile economic climate, it is time to protect that legacy.” Mary Marcy is among the scores of college leaders revising budgets and crafting a fiscal vision, which adjusts to the downward economic climate while protecting the academic core. Budget revisions, discussed throughout the fall at Simon’s Rock and formally announced on Tuesday, are two-fold. They identify the college’s financial priorities, as well as where it will cut back.
“So often in difficult economic times we hear about what colleges won’t fund,” Marcy says. “But this is a time to not only talk about creative responses to the economy, but to identify and affirm what we value and what we will protect.” For Simon’s Rock, affirming its unique early college mission through the academic core, securing the success of recent initiatives, and protecting jobs are the priorities.
Safeguarding the Mission and Academic Core
At the center of the Simon’s Rock ethos is the college’s personalized instruction and low student-to-faculty ratio. The college is in the midst of four new faculty searches, as a response to strong admissions in the past few years and in support of specific initiatives. These searches are continuing, and the college will adjust hiring plans as enrollment numbers become more definitive.
In addition, it will look to maintain and further strong diversity gains seen these last few years. Rare among the nation’s small liberal arts campuses is the ability to attract and retain a highly diverse faculty and student body; protecting this unique success is a priority. To do this, Marcy says that the college is committed to fully supporting financial aid and new offices like the Win Resource Commons, which provides students with additional academic support ranging from professional tutoring, to transfer and career placement, to diversity education.
Protecting People, Protecting Jobs
In the past few years, enrollment and retention rates at Bard College at Simon’s Rock have surged. Outreach, financial aid, as well as signature programs and partnerships have helped the college realize its admission goals. Safeguarding these gains and maintaining healthy retention rates, Marcy says, is a clear priority.
Bard College at Simon’s Rock is allocating additional financial aid resources to help students and families respond to unanticipated need. “Protecting students is our main concern.” Marcy assures, “We’re going to help them get here and stay here.”
The college will also make prudent hiring and personnel decisions, including a hold on new non-faculty hires, in order to protect current employees.“Ensuring the health and well being of our community includes supporting the faculty and staff who have helped build the college to what it is today.”
In order to secure these priorities and respond to the changing economic climate, Simon’s Rock has announced a number of budget revisions for the current academic year. They include:
- No new construction. Prior to the shifting economic landscape, the college planned to build a new residence on its upper campus. Now, it will relieve its residential space crunch with a temporary dormitory. The modular is expected to house 40-45 students and a Residence Director.
- Pausing renovations. Student houses Crosby and Dolliver, which were scheduled to see facelifts similar to those implemented at Kendrick House last summer, are now on hold. However, Marcy notes that the energy savings alone may justify pursuing these projects in the future. To establish baseline numbers and data, the college will install meters to monitor energy use in the Kendrick House and compare that to numbers sourced from meters installed on older buildings.
- Non-essential employee hiring freeze. Positions that are not directly related to supporting the academic core or mission of the college will be frozen. The college will also determine, on a case -by-case basis, what positions will be absorbed if employees leave or retire.
- Dialing down the heat. Simon’s Rock will turn down heat in all of its buildings by two degrees. In a move that will save money and energy, Marcy predicts that students, staff and faculty will have no qualms putting on an extra layer if they get a little chilly.
- New equipment purchases subject to approval. New equipment purchases will be subject to the approval of the senior leadership at the college.
“These are actions which will help us manage the budget while protecting our mission, our initiatives, and our community,” Marcy explains. “I have implicit faith in the power of our mission. These decisions put the college in a position to work through this difficult economic time.”
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