The 2008 year may be over, but the effects of last year’s economic slowdown are still being felt. Boston University has been hit especially hard, as illustrated by the 24.1 percent decrease in the endowment and the recent prediction of a $10 million budget gap for the year 2010, which President Robert Brown announced in a letter to BU faculty and staff Monday. President Brown has not made it clear exactly where the financial cuts needed to balance the budget will be implemented, but it is clear tough choices will be necessary in the near future.
President Brown has shown the right attitude by declaring the affordability of BU ‘a much larger concern’ than BU’s shrinking endowment and asserting his commitment to ‘substantially increasing [BU’s] financial aid reserve.’ However, it is unclear if this will be enough to satisfy the needs of students seeking financial aid, because financial aid applications have increased by 40 percent this year. As such, BU must put its students’ needs before all else.
When it comes time for the administration to decide where to cut funding or who to lay off, it is vital that its members remember the most basic purpose of a university: to educate. It is always tempting to put more money into a gloat-worthy research field or to acquire the latest technological gadget, but when cash is at a premium, it’s time to go back to the basics. This requires investing in the students who attend the school, instead of the university’s ego.
A university’s priority must always be its students – not its reputation. To demonstrate its primary commitment to the student body, BU must do whatever it can to keep tuition increases to a minimum and to provide financial aid to those who need it. In these challenging economic times, middle and lower class families need all the help they can get if they want to send their children to top institutions. The benefits of financial aid go beyond the individual receiving aid and extend to the entire university by ensuring a diverse educational experience. It is not in the best interest of anyone for BU to become a school of wealthy students alone. A whole range of perspectives from students with different socio-economic backgrounds is needed to promote the best possible learning environment.
At the end of the day, prospective students go to college because they want a quality education that prepares them for adulthood. When faced with budget trouble, BU should not be striving to change the world through grand projects and proposals that make the university look good. Instead, BU must be focused on providing its pupils with a world-class education, and as a result, BU graduates will possess the tools to have an impact on the future of society. This is what will truly increase the reputation of BU in the eyes of others: a university that focuses on what matters most.