February 10, 2023 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden
Students, staff, and faculty attended an Institutional Financial Planning meeting on Tuesday to discuss suggestions being brought forward to the board about Colorado College’s financial future. While the meeting primarily covered how CC spends and acquires money as compared to peer institutions, pieces of the presentation gave possible insight into simmering tensions that exist among the CC community, including understanding staff and student worker wages, on campus living requirements, and investment policies.
The presenters at the meeting included Robert Moore, Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration and Lori Seager, Associate Vice President of Finance and Administration. Moore began the meeting by talking through the latest data comparing the financial habits of CC to our peer institutions.
In most every aspect, Colorado College closely adheres to the trends of peer institutions. The only outlier that Moore highlighted was that compared to such institutions, Colorado College pays our faculty slightly below the group average.
From this part of the presentation Moore said, “If there’s one thing to take away from this conversation, it’s that CC is a tuition dependent institution. We need students who want to come here.” Along with the costs of tuition, Moore indicated that student payments for room and board also contribute to parts of CC’s budget.
One of the absent components of Moore’s presentation, which some audience members noted during the open question period at the end of the meeting, was the lack of comparison when it came to staff wages from peer institutions. Moore indicated this absence was a result of “statistical challenges” when it comes to crunching this data. The titles for staff positions at most higher education institutions vary widely, making direct salary and compensation comparisons more difficult.
As a result, it’s unclear how the wages for staff and student workers at CC compare to peer institutions. Seager did say however that CC pays staff “the market rate,” even though in recent years there has been some concern on campus for how staff and students are compensated.
Another aspect of the presentation that was brought up in the questioning period was whether the retention of the three year on campus living requirement was in part a financial decision. Moore said, “Initially the three year on campus requirement was the result of a study that indicated students perform better academically when they live on campus.” He later said, “now that the buildings are there it’s also financial.”
The three-year on campus living requirement has been a source of concern for some students attending CC. The current policy states that students must live on campus for three out of their four years here. Since the Covid-19 Pandemic, there have been fluctuations in the desire to live on campus, with seniors more frequently requesting to stay in institutional housing. On the other hand, there are some sophomores and juniors who want to live off campus but find it too difficult to do so. The policy makes it difficult for some in both groups to access housing that suits their needs.
Moore indicated that, ultimately, the policy is in the hands of the Board of Trustees. Their meeting next weekend will not only likely touch on this subject, but it will review some of the proposals brought forward by the Campus Budget Committee. The Board will also be expected to respond to a group of students requesting that Colorado College changes its investment strategies away from Carbon industries.
The CC Divest Coalition is a group of students who want to see CC divest from fossil fuels. This goal has existed long before the most recent iteration of the group, but recently these students have found a new passion for changing the college’s financial habits. At the Institutional Financial planning meeting, the group brought forward their proposal to be submitted to the Board.
Kai Fogelquist ‘26 was the one to present the proposal at the meeting. Fogelquist said, “This is a crisis for the entire planet. When [Moore] was talking about how the number one takeaway is that we completely are dependent on tuition and like the students coming to the school, it’s just like, the office of sustainability and sustainability generally is our entire messaging, like the first thing you learn about CC when you tour or interested is carbon neutral and the environment.”
To this group, being sustainable and protecting the environment is inherent to the character of the college. To some, it’s been disappointing to come to CC and discover levels of hypocrisy embedded in some of the school’s practices.
Within their proposal the group is requesting that the Board establish a “Responsible Investing Sub-Committee by April 1st”. This committee would work alongside members of the Board to come up with clear metrics for what sustainable investing might look like and from there reach out to CC’s investment firm, Partners Capital.
According to Moore, CC doesn’t have much invested in the energy sector, but to CC Divest, this is just more reason to make these policies concrete. Fogelquist said, “this should be incredibly simple and easy for them to do. It shouldn’t be threatening at all for the investments or for the endowment and, like, the returns from it. I really think it’s like more of the fear of changing.”
Moore promised that the proposal will be passed on to those on the Board. Now, the CC Divest Coalition waits for next weekend’s meeting to hear whether their subcommittee to change the school’s investment policies will be supported by administration. A member of the group, Cecelia Russel ‘23, said of their future as a coalition, “we are just getting started.”