Manhattan College no longer publishes a yearbook, but it issues a President’s Report, and that’s pretty close.
This year’s President’s Report conveys the institution’s progress on its strategic plan and total assets and expenditures, making it the most comprehensive public report on the status of the college. The report confirms that the college is in good financial standing, with $315 million in assets and $130.4 million in annual revenue.
“We are growing,” President Brennan O’Donnell said. “We’re growing strategically, and that’s a good place to be particularly in the current environment where a lot of places are cutting back.”
This growth, especially in enrollment, has sparked numerous initiatives on campus that are highlighted in the report and are each tied back to one of the key goals of the college: learning heritage, learning environment and learning dynamic.
The range of the work of community members in the report is wide. Some of the year’s highlights are the racial justice teach-in held on campus, a lecture from the president of Albania, diversified study abroad opportunities and NSF grants for engineering education research.
The report pairs this narrative with the numbers and gives real meaning to the campus’s strategic direction.
Last year 900 freshmen began their studies at the college, which according to the report is 20 percent bigger than the previous freshmen class. The college also grew its part time graduate student body by over 100 students in the last year, for a total of 453 graduate students enrolled in either full or part time programs.
More students means more expenditures to keep the college running. The report states that this fiscal year’s budget was 9 percent higher than the previous year’s, but revenue consequently also increased by 6 percent this year.
Roughly two-thirds of the college’s revenue -$79 million- comes directly from student tuition and fees. The rest is a combination of auxiliary enterprises, contributions, investment income from the college’s endowment and other sources.
“We are just under $80 million in our total endowment,” CFO Matthew McManness said. He said that the revenue from the endowment typically funds scholarships for students.
Even with an increase in the spending budget, various campus initiatives and physical plant upgrades can put a strain on finances at the college.
“It’s the constant pressure on institutions like Manhattan College is how are you going to….to be able to fund everything that you want to fund,” O’Donnell said. “Because when you have this kind of excitement about the project in the community, people have good ideas, and you want to be able to say yes go and let’s do that.”
But the financial information provided in the document is not total. It categorizes college spending into six overarching groups, offering a broad overview of its finances rather than a detailed breakout of what each spending category specifically encompasses.
The spending category with the highest expenditures last year was instruction, with $41 million. McManness said this category includes faculty salaries, the cost of equipment and the cost of support for instruction. The student services, institutional support and residence life categories each had $22 million in expenditures.
For religious studies professor Robert Geraci, the college’s decision to publish this financial information was an important step in the right direction, but he would like to see more detailed disclosure on how money at the college is allocated.
“This is another change for the better that we’re seeing more. I think all of us would like to see more transparency especially when it kind of comes down to the nitty gritty of how money gets spent,” Geraci said. “I don’t know quite how everything fits in the various pieces of the pie and-frankly-I’d like to…A pie chart only tells me so much.”
Prior to the President’s Report (which is only in its second year), the college did not present this kind of detailed financial information to the broader community at all. The decision to do so is a shift from previous administration.
“It was not part of the culture of the place that […] we put this thing out,” O’Donnell said. “Everybody deserves to be able to see how the money is being spent. So it’s just a matter of openness to those constituencies. Why not just let everybody see what’s going on?”
That involvement of student tuition-payers is what Geraci believes is missing from the dialogue.
“You should have a stake in how money is being spent because you’re the one paying for it,” Geraci said. “That doesn’t mean students should be included in every single conversation about how money should be spent…but you should at least get to know how [it’s being spent].”