Long-term outlook guides budget

President and Professor of Political Science Kent Chabotar recently offered a summer update on enrollment and finances, in which he described his attitude as cautiously optimistic. In the midst of Founders Hall changes, among other summer campus improvements, Chabotar announced his decision to suspend tenure-track faculty searches due to the volatile economic state of the country.

Board of trustees member Vic Cochran said the board is behind the budget plan, the decisions to spend money on the renovations on campus, and the decision to suspend tenure-track faculty searches.

“Kent is completely supported by the trustees,” said Cochran.
One of the most notable campus changes is the solar thermal hot water system which, when finished, will be the largest on a college campus in the country. The total cost estimated for all campus renovations is nearly $3 million.

Chabotar’s update also illustrated the importance of safe-guarding the college during this hectic and often unstable economic time.

“Amidst chronic economic troubles, the outlook for Guilford College is cautiously optimistic,” said Chabotar. “We will know more in October when enrollment for the fall is set.”
The financial update also indicated that there were 67 less traditional first-year students as of June 30.

“The college budgeted for best case-worst case scenarios and we are still within those numbers at the present,” said Chabotar. “We can’t have record numbers all of the time.”

Chabotar is not the only member of the Guilford community focusing on multiple facets of an unstable economy. Henry Catania, a senior and education major, said he is one of the many students who wonder why the administration is spending money when we are in tight financial times.

“I think the administration could be more vocal to students about the recent renovations,” said Catania. “There should be a central place to learn about the budgets and endowment; it would show that the administration is doing everything they can for who wants a copy of this information, which is important for everyone in our community.”

Chabotar noted that students who express concerns about Guilford’s allocation of money should talk to student government; it might help clarify matters for them.

The budget update also indicated there would be a second year suspension of all tenure-track searches. Though endowed chairs for tenured faculty are one of Guilford’s fund-raising priorities, the student to professor ratio is still 16 to one.

“We should avoid locking in as many costs as possible when unemployment is high, the stock market wobbling, and housing is stagnant,” said Chabotar. “Awarding tenure is a lifetime commitment.”

Jim Hood, professor and chair of the English department, said he understands the need to be cautious, especially when considering the current economic market.

“It would have been helpful, in this particular instance, if the decision to suspend tenure-track decisions had been made before departments did all the work involved in producing position requests, requests that the Clerk’s Committee worked extremely hard to review,” said Hood.

“If Guilford weren’t driven so much by tuition revenue, it would have been much easier to make the decision earlier. The position allocation decision-making process has to look well beyond the coming year, but that’s like gazing into a crystal ball, given the volatility of the stock market and the economy in general.”

Chabotar said that it is fiscally imprudent to use a one-time gift to provide, at best, initial funding for a continuing expense like tenure-track positions, and reminded that all types of faculty are hired at Guilford, not just tenure-tracked positions.

Bob Williams, professor of economics and chair of the finance committee, agrees with Cochran and Chabotar.

“These decisions are as much about the immediate future as the current situation,” said Williams.

Chabotar said that at the end of the day there is still more work to be done while remaining fiscally responsible. Guilford has invested $29.8 million in campus improvements since 2002, while neighboring institutions like High Point University have spent over $200 million in just five years.

“We have more work to do,” said Chabotar. “We need to check out our competition and see how they look before judging whether we have done too much or too little so far.