BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College’s board of trustees last weekend agreed to implement new measures to help the school curb a projected 20 percent decline in its endowment this year.
The decision means Bowdoin will institute a two-year salary freeze on most faculty and staff while increasing enrollment by 50 students over the next five years.
According to Scott Hood, the college’s vice president of communications, the initiatives will help the college save an estimated $11 million over the next two years.
Bowdoin’s current operating budget is $141 million. Hood said the school’s spending plan could increase slightly over the next two fiscal years.
College President Barry Mills announced the trustees’ decision in a Feb. 9 letter. Mills said the measures were necessary to help Bowdoin avoid layoffs, maintain its facilities and grounds and would allow it to continue offering grant-based financial aid packages.
Mills has not ruled out additional measures, including layoffs. He said the new budget initiatives are flexible in order to adjust to changing economic conditions.
In an earlier, Jan. 22 letter, Mills said the measures are designed to give Bowdoin budget surpluses in its current fiscal year and the next two or three budget years.
Also among the recommendations is a re-evaluation of vacant staff positions to determine if they should be filled. Operating costs will be flat-funded, while supplies, meals, equipment and travel expenses could also be reduced.
Bowdoin still plans to proceed with a new initiative to eliminate student loans in favor of grants. The grant program, an approach also used by many of the nation’s top colleges and universities, was introduced last year.
Mills also recommended continuing Bowdoin’s major facilities maintenance program. However, major capital projects not funded by gifts or grants will be put on hold.
Bowdoin’s student body will now grow by 10 students per year over the next five years. According to Mills, tuition and fees are Bowdoin’s top revenue source. Its endowment is second.
Mills previously said enrollment increases could be curtailed if the economy rebounds. He said the student body growth should also allow Bowdoin to continue its need-blind admissions policy.
Mills said his recommendations were influenced by a committee of staff, students and financial experts created to address Bowdoin’s projected decline in endowment.
Bowdoin’s endowment falloff is in line with private colleges across the country. Dartmouth College this week announced it is laying off 60 staffers and cutting its budget by $72 million to meet an 18 percent decline in endowment.
Princeton University and Cornell University have both announced hiring freezes. Harvard University is also reportedly contemplating budget reductions after its endowment suffered a loss of $8 million, or 22 percent. And, closer to home, St. Joseph’s College in Standish last month announced $1 million in budget cuts, including the elimination of 14 jobs.