Where does your money go?

Annual reports can help students learn more about the university’s revenues and expenditures. (Photo by 401 (k) 2013 used under Creative Commons license.)

By Brad Crofford, Editor-in-chief

Students pay for a variety of things each semester, such as tuition, room, board, books, the general health fee, and more. Yet, the university receives revenue from other areas and has expenses that students may not be aware of.

To help students better understand where their money goes, Dr. Scott Strawn, vice president for business and finance, sat down for an interview with The Echo.

According to data from fiscal year 2012 that Strawn provided to The Echo, tuition and fees were 62 percent of the university’s revenue. This is up from 54 percent in FY 2011 but down from 63% in FY 2010, according to the annual reports from those years.

Traditional students benefit from the fact that the university receives revenue in other areas.

“Between gifts from our church and unrestricted giving, most of that supports traditional students,” Strawn said.

Strawn estimates that out of the $22 million budgeted for traditional students, about $2 million of it comes from church and unrestricted giving.

Traditional students also benefit from the university’s professional and graduate studies programs.

“There is no doubt that when you look at traditional programs, we lose money. There is no doubt that when you look at [professional and graduate studies programs], we gain money,” Strawn said. “Our budget is structured so that we have more net revenue from PGS than traditional programs, and that is by design.”

Strawn did note that this does somewhat depend on how one accounts for things. For example, because it uses a cohort system, PGS ebbs and flows; it does not use a traditional fiscal year.

In regards to cost increases, Strawn noted that there are factors outside of the university’s control.

“Health care costs are going up five percent, and we have little control over that,” Strawn said as one example.

Many other employee benefits are also beyond the university’s control. These are also important in attracting quality faculty who are willing to work for less than they could earn at other universities. For example, SNU’s tuition remission policy is more generous than other universities.

“On the whole, SNU pays professors at about the 80 percent level of other universities,” Strawn said. “We probably pay five to ten percent less than universities that are like us.”

While costs for students go up over time, Strawn emphasized SNU’s value. He also said that this will continue in the future.

“Next year, if we are not the cheapest Nazarene university, we will be the one right above it, and that’s before discounting,” Strawn said, referring to mechanisms such as financial aid that reduce the sticker price of university attendance. “SNU, for the value we provide, is an absolute steal.”

Each year, SNU prepares an annual report stating both its revenue and its expenses. It divides the revenue into the categories: (1) net tuition and fees, (2) investments, (3) gifts and grants, and (4) auxiliary, sales and services, and other. Expenses are divided into: (1) instruction and academic support, (2) auxiliary, (3) student services, and (4) institutional support. Data for FY 2008 through FY 2011 are available at http://snu.edu/annual-report.

What do you think?