Editorial: What Administration Does Not Care If You Know

By The Editorial Board

Do you know how much your tuition will increase next year? Do you know if it is bigger or smaller than the average increase, or how the university justifies its decision to increase? Do you know who approves the financial year budget, and when?

Well, you should. This is your student loan debt, part of $1.3 trillion dollars of it nationally. It may delay the first down payment on your house or the amount of time it takes for you to say “I do.” Your university should have to explain how it is using your money, and why it is using more of it this year than last year.

But it doesn’t, and you didn’t notice.

To be fair, the editorial board did not notice either until recently. The Fordham Ram set about reporting on next year’s tuition after we noticed student newspapers at our peer institutions, Boston College (The Heights) and Georgetown University (The Hoya), have been doing the same for quite some time now.

“The Georgetown University Board of Directors recently approved the increase in undergraduate tuition, which will bring the cost of a Georgetown education up from $37,536 to $38,616 beginning next fall, according to a university press release,” Sarah Mimms reported in The Hoya in 2009. At the end of February 2016, one of The Hoya’s reporters, Matthew Larson, wrote: “Despite Georgetown University’s relatively low endowment, the Georgetown Board of Directors announced its approval of the university’s largest-ever increase in financial aid for students in the coming academic year Feb. 16.”

If this sort of announcement by Fordham administration seems foreign to you, that’s because it is. The Board of Trustees does not send emails out to the students, certainly not when it pertains to budgeting issues. In fact, university trustees are largely anonymous figures to the student body. Each of their names are listed on the Fordham website, but with no biographies listed next to them. The Board of Trustees holds four meetings annually, but all of them are closed to the public. Minutes are taken at these meetings, but those, too, are not publicly available. The date, time and location of these meetings are not publicized. The contents of these meetings, including decisions made by the board regarding the operating budget, are not publicized. The chief financial officer also does not hold open meetings.

In essence, the most important information regarding Fordham’s operations are a mystery, and the university does not mind if it stays that way. At least, that would explain why three emails to the chief financial officer, one email to the director of communications, one email to the secretary of the board of trustees, one email to the vice president of finance, and two emails to the university president regarding either Fordham’s finances or its direction have not been returned.

Perhaps the reason why the administration is being so blatantly opaque is that no one has ever asked these questions before. It is possible that no one has ever been concerned about tuition hikes, or never expected to hear about them anyway. Perhaps we have become accustomed to an arbitrary number being updated on our e-bill. Perhaps we have never wanted answers, or thought they would be handed to us.

Though the editorial board finds that difficult to believe, if this were the case, it is a dangerous mindset to have adopted. Of course a student body would develop a culture of apathy if it expected no explanations from its administration on major decisions. The last explanations of a financial nature came from the Office of the President in October and November 2014, when Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of university, wrote about Fordham’s capital projects and finances. In November 2015, he released a “monthly update” (that does not come every month) to the university community which conspicuously left out any financial information.

Tuition, at $46,120 for Fall 2015-2016 entrants to Rose Hill, is higher now than it ever has been. Tuition is higher than the average starting salary of Fordham College Rose Hill graduates. If what it takes to create a transparent system of reporting finances is a formal request, then please consider this editorial that request. As a student news source, we will never be able to perform our duty of keeping the campus appraised of university finances unless the university meets us half way.

There are 6 comments

  1. Good Article

    Keep probing for the information you are paying a pretty penny for your education. Fordham is really just a story that they put out there, when you scratch the surface enquiring you get light. They do not like queries as it unearths what they do not want known !

  2. Praying For

    Fordham is in desperate need of real leadership and experience, not one from the Association of Jesuit Universites. Father McShane’s time has come and gone yet he still reigns in a hazy secondary manner, leadership is in a quagmire. Fordham needs to address it’s finances, academic direction and overall brand. To be real it has to rationalize being a liberal arts, social service university and operating at Lincoln Center plus being unknown. It is a dysfunctional university faking many disciplines and not being best of breed in any. I would highly recommend selling the Lincoln Center campus, taking the money and building in the Bronx, this should be Fordham’s long term plan. It would give Fordham the cash injection and future it needs, law could stay but everything else sell. It cannot hardly maintain the facilities there and no donors are stepping forward, time to be real. Fordham needs to address it’s direction and realize it lives in the past, being agile is impossible when it does not have the financial resources to compete ! Heck, half those teaching at Fordham are adjuncts who are poorly paid with no benefits, this is hardly societal values in operation. Fordham is a business and it has to make decisions.

  3. James

    Fordham is just a “Jesuit” big business. It’s sickening how much these administrators make (and are all these staff really necessary?)

  4. We have some info

    The University should be more communicative about the increases in tuition, but much of the information you seek can be easily found. As a nonprofit, (educational institutions are classified as 501c and are tax exempt) Fordham has to disclose revenue, expenses, top compensation, etc. It runs on a two year backlog, but here ya go:

    Check out the compensation part, in particular. $300-500k a year for most of the VPs, who have all been for many many years. From 2010-2014, looks like at least a several saw their salaries increase by 40%. Take a look.

  5. Dagger John's Has Good Pizza

    There is a huge dichotomy at Fordham, rankings are reversing back and tuition is going up. So this means we are paying more for a degree that is falling in value and overall perception. What this means is they got problems cause they previously stated that they could not reasonably raise tuition any more. There also does not seem to be any real concern about or sense of urgency to fix this, rather we just have to trust our grand leaders who are CUSP studying things. Frankly this is an amateur show, a pantomime of reality being played out behind the scenes, we don’t hear the words of what is going on. Father McShane & Co. has to lay out the financial state of the university, departments and operating budgets within, in other words what revenue is coming in and where is it spent, are we balancing our books ?

    The notion that we just play along while listening to their social justice mantra as they bungle both the value of one’s degree and the overall financial state of the university is not acceptable. In fact at most state schools or even other private institutions the board or trustees remove the individuals screwing up. At Fordham this is just too cruel plus they could not get other replacements due to budget issues. The most telling fact was John Lordan who resigned as VP Finance, he just told it like it is. Apparently prior to Lordan’s arrival they did not even have budgets and forecasts or even a finance head ! We are tired of circular reasoning and facade like pictures of Keating Hall to appease questions, we need to know what is going on !

  6. Your $

    Welcome to Fordham where the F stands for something else ! The finances of the university are a mess and they do not want it released. Transparency and ethics etc are just nice catch words that never seem to get implemented, this while taking your money and deploying it who knows where. The last decent budget story and related below it was this: https://fordhamram.com/2014/11/19/admin-break-down-budget-allocations/ . Apparently it caused too much damage that everyone found out what and how dysfunctional Fordham’s finances are.

    The gig is most students don’t clue in till too late to transfer and give up asking in the end, takes several years of wondering then too late see ya. Graduate School is a disaster, Law and the MBA used to get skimmed royally and balance the wacky place including athletics but now they are feeling it. McShane has been a financial disaster for the university, he has decimated graduate education to build undergraduate and now grad school is non-competitive and applications are way down across the board. Trustees do not ask questions and are hand picked to ask the minimal, they just get cocktails and food after the meeting, they are a secret society as is Fordham. Students should hold off paying until they get a look at the finances, like what programs budgets are, athletics etc, where revenue comes from and how it is spent ! Lying to and obstructing students queries is a way of life at Fordham, they are masters at it.


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