Office of the President
February 9, 2015
Tags Community Messages

February 2015 Corporation Meeting: Academic Planning, Commitment to Financial Aid

From the President

Members of the Brown Community,

I am pleased to write with news of the February meeting of the Corporation of Brown University. Over the past weekend members of the Corporation engaged in informal discussions with students regarding issues of sexual assault and mental health; discussed proposals to increase student engagement with the Corporation; approved the budget for next fiscal year; reviewed the findings of the interim report of the Sexual Assault Task Force and the response to the near-term recommendations contained in that report; and discussed a wide variety of academic planning priorities and accomplishments.

A highlight of the weekend was the acceptance of a wonderful pledge from an anonymous donor in the amount of $15 million to support the Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) program. This pledge will provide $1 million annually in financial aid funding for RUE students over the next 15 years. Funding from the pledge will provide incremental scholarships, loan relief, and waivers from required summer earnings for RUE students who have been out of high school for six years or more and come to Brown to complete undergraduate studies that had been delayed or interrupted. Current RUE students will be eligible for summer earnings waivers starting in the summer of 2016. RUE students are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including parents, military veterans, and community college students. This gift places RUE scholarships on a firm and dependable footing and will allow the University to increase the number and diversity of resumed undergraduate students in the campus community. We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the anonymous donor.

The Corporation also accepted a ten-year grant in the amount of $10 million from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation to create and fund the Sidney E. Frank Scholars Endowed BrownConnect Fund and to increase the existing Sidney E. Frank Endowed Scholarship Fund. This critical financial support will enable each Frank Scholar to participate in a Linking Students to Internships & Knowledge qualifying summer internship or a summer teaching or research collaboration during their time at Brown. At the end of the grant period, the fund will be fully endowed. The grant will also enhance the Sidney E. Frank Endowed Scholarship Fund, which was established by Sidney E. Frank ‘42, LHD ‘05 hon. with a $100,000,000 gift in 2004.

​​Academic Planning and Priorities

Throughout the weekend, the Corporation discussed a wide variety of academic planning priorities and accomplishments, including the importance of continuing to recruit and retain outstanding faculty by highlighting Brown's distinctive character and intellectual opportunities through the integrative themes identified in Building on Distinction, and by making sure we make appropriate investments in the research facilities, computing support, and library resources necessary to support their scholarship and teaching.

The Academic Affairs Committee received reports of encouraging signs in sponsored research revenue, which has been an area of recent concern. We have seen over the past year strong growth in both grant applications and awards - especially in the Division of Biology and Medicine, the School of Public Health, and the School of Engineering - as well as new approaches by department chairs and the deans to help advance the faculty’s efforts in this critical aspect of the University's mission. The total amount of new grant proposals rose in fiscal 2014, and dollars awarded during the first half of the current fiscal year were up 29 percent compared to the same period of the previous year.

The Corporation also heard from the provost and deans and faculty in a variety of areas about the vision and goals for integrative scholarship and teaching. This included early programmatic priorities in the arts from newly appointed vice provost for the arts Michael Steinberg; innovative ideas and plans in exploring the human experience from incoming director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities Amanda Anderson; and initiatives and accomplishments in the physical and life sciences. The Campus Life Committee discussed emerging and recent activities in Engaged Scholarship and the already highly successful BrownConnect initiative. There was great enthusiasm for this work and support for continuing investments in Brown’s academic priorities and goals.

Commitment to Financial Aid, FY16 Budget, Tuition and Fees

Members of the Corporation considered the report of the University Resources Committee (URC) and ​approved ​my recommendations regarding the budget, financial aid, tuition and fees for next year.

The generous pledge and grant described above support a critical element of ​​Building on Distinction and the budget for next year, namely the University’s commitment to financial aid. Ensuring access to a Brown education remains one of our highest priorities. The undergraduate financial aid budget will increase by 8% next year to a total of $112.5 million. In fact, financial aid has been among the fastest growing items in the budget for many years, significantly outpacing the rate of increase in tuition and fees.

The University investment in and generous philanthropic support for financial aid has contributed immensely to expanding the diversity of the student body in all respects. Our financial aid experience, however, demonstrates that students from families with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, the middle-income range for applicants to Brown and peer institutions, continue to face challenges in affording a Brown education. While other parts of our financial aid program are competitive with peers, financial aid packages for these families lag behind. In the FY16 financial aid budget we have allocated funds to provide a modest increase in scholarships to newly enrolled students from middle-income families, which will decrease the expected parental contribution. After this year’s admission cycle we will evaluate the effectiveness of this change as we continually monitor and assess our efforts to increase access to Brown.

The URC report underscores Brown’s commitment to eliminating its operating deficit. The deficit is primarily driven by two external factors: larger-than-expected declines in federal research funding and unexpected growth in the cost of financial aid. The budget deficit was $8.8 million in FY14 and is projected to be $6.7 million in FY15. With ​the ​budget recommended by the URC and approved by the Corporation, we anticipate that the FY16 budget deficit will be $4.4 million. Although we have made progress, it should be noted that reductions in the deficit have been supported through the use of $7.5 million of temporary reserves and restricted fund balances, which we cannot count on being available in future years. Therefore, efforts to control the deficit must continue in earnest.

To achieve a sustainable operating budget, we must enhance research revenue as faculty have actively been doing, increase tuition revenue through new education offerings, maintain and expand philanthropic support, and control expenditure growth. As part of our intensive effort to establish a multi-year financial strategy that is realistic, responsible and balances the budget, the Deficit Reduction Working group is hard at work identifying opportunities for savings and revenue. Co-chairs Richard Locke and Ravi Pendse updated the Budget & Finance Committee on their progress. This group will issue recommendations to reduce spending by at least $7 million later this spring. This work is important to the University’s continued ability to grow and strengthen our academic programs in the years to come.

In this context of fiscal constraint and rebalancing, tuition remains the greatest source of Brown’s revenue, and is used to maintain our excellent academic programs and all that is required to support our mission. We also acknowledge that increasing tuition and fees poses challenges to students and their families. After much discussion, the URC recommended a 4.4% increase in tuition and fees, bringing total undergraduate charges for next year to $62,046. It is important to note that tuition and fees do not cover the full cost of a Brown education, so the educational experience of all students is subsidized by philanthropy and other sources of revenue. In addition, given Brown’s commitment to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for undergraduates, the cost of attendance varies based on individual family circumstances. As demonstrated by the 8% increase in next year’s financial aid budget, the University remains committed to enhancing access and affordability. Tuition at the Alpert Medical School will increase by 4.0%. I endorsed those recommendations and the Corporation approved them.

With respect to mandatory fees, URC proposed and the Corporation approved a 7.5% increase to the standard room rate, from $7,416 to $7,972. ​(This 7.5% increase is included in the overall increase of 4.4% in tuition and fees, noted above.) ​This increase is necessary to help fund the significant investments which have been made in residence halls and to respond to student requests to eliminate the two-tier room rate system with different rates for standard rooms as opposed to suites and apartments. Over the past several years, Brown has invested more than $80 million in residence hall renovations, transforming the first-year residential experience on the Pembroke Campus and Keeney Quadrangle. Improvements have been made in housing for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, including the renovation of 315 Thayer Street and $8 million in renovations to take place in Wriston Quadrangle this summer. Approximately 25% of all residence hall beds have been renovated during this time frame. In addition to these renovations, the URC concurred with students that they should be able to choose rooms based on the facilities and locations that best meet their interests without the extra cost being a factor in the decision. For FY16, the difference between the standard room rate and the suite rate will be $812 (down from $1,368 in FY15). If financial circumstances allow, we anticipate that the suite rate be held flat in future years as well, until the two-tiered system can be eliminated.

The approved budget includes faculty and staff salary increase pools of 2.75% each and investments in areas with revenue-generating potential, including seed funds for faculty research, new on-campus and executive master’s programs, and fundraising staff. The budget reflects the priority Brown places on continuing to improve support for PhD students, even while we are working to rein in the deficit. Investments in doctoral education totaling more than $2 million will allow us to increase stipends by 3.0% and ​significantly enhance the support we provide for students beyond their five-year guarantee (more detail regarding support for PhD students can be found in the URC report). The budget also includes resources to support additional staff recently added in Counseling and Psychological Services and to implement the near-term recommendations of the Sexual Assault Task Force, including the Title IX Program Officer, an additional sexual assault prevention ​and advocacy ​coordinator position, and support for education and training programs.

For more information on the budget and a link to the full URC report, please see the news release online.

Acceptance of Gifts and Other Business

During the business meeting the Corporation accepted a number of gifts and pledges in addition to the two for financial aid noted above, totaling more than $63 million. Taken together, these gifts indicate strong support for strategic priorities. The gifts include:

  • From anonymous donors, a pledge of $20,000,000, of which $10,000,000 will support the School of Engineering and $10,000,000 will support various designations, including the Rockefeller Library, Middle East Studies, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Financial Aid, Brown Athletics, and the Brown Annual Fund;
  • An anonymous pledge of $4,000,000 to support a professorship in policy at the Watson Institute for International Studies;
  • From anonymous donors, gifts and pledges totaling $2,500,000 of which $1,500,000 will support postdoctoral fellowships in the Watson Institute for International Studies; $750,000 will support improvements in performance spaces in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies; and a $250,000 gift previously received will help endow a new coaching chair in men’s rugby;
  • From Santander Bank, a gift of $2,250,000 to support programs in the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes;
  • From Mr. and Mrs. Shelby M. C. Davis, a grant of $2,133,159 for continued support of the Davis United World College Scholars Program at Brown University;
  • From anonymous donors, a gift of $2,003,354 to establish, effective immediately, an assistant professorship in music;
  • From Mr. and Mrs. George Lindemann P’86, P’89, GP’15, a pledge of $1,500,000 to support the Political Theory Project at Brown University;
  • From Mara Berkman Landis '89 and Dean Landis, a pledge of $1,125,000 to provide four years of current-use support to the Warren Alpert Medical School for medical education and research on the topics of patient healing, self-efficacy, and vitality;
  • From Trustee Robert J. Carney ’61 and Nancy D. Carney, an additional commitment of $1,000,000 in support of the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Innovation Fund for the Brown Institute for Brain Science II;
  • From Norbert P. Donelly ’73, P’03, a gift of $1,000,000 to The Donelly Family Scholarship Fund II;
  • From Paul Salem, a member of the class of 1985, and Navyn Salem, a pledge of $1,000,000, to support post-doctoral research at the Brown Institute for Brain Science, the Athletic Director's Excellence Annual Fund, and the Brown Annual Fund.

The Corporation also approved the establishment of the Ulen Scholarship with a bequest of $639,500 from John F. Ulen ‘44.

The Corporation approved the appointment of the following faculty to named chairs:

  • Mark Blyth, Eastman Professor of Political Economy;
  • B. Anthony Bogues, Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory;
  • Amanda Lynch, Sloan Lindemann and George Lindemann, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies;
  • Jesse Shapiro, George S. and Nancy B. Parker Professor of Economics;
  • Eric Suuberg, C.V. Starr Professor of Technology Entrepreneurship.

The Board of Fellows endorsed the faculty's approval for the administration to pursue negotiations with the Navy and Air Force to expand ROTC opportunities for Brown students through participation in the Navy ROTC program based at the College of the Holy Cross and the Air Force ROTC program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

On Thursday, members of the Corporation engaged in informal discussion groups with undergraduate students on the topics of sexual assault and mental health. This was a pilot effort designed in collaboration with the Undergraduate Council of Students to increase communication and engagement between members of the Corporation and the student body. The discussions were highly successful and informed conversation throughout the course of the meetings. We will continue these efforts at each meeting, including with graduate and medical students. Graduate students did have an opportunity this weekend to meet with members of the Committee on Campus Life.

The Corporation as a whole received an update on the interim report of the Sexual Assault Task Force and the implementation of the near-term recommendations approved by me last month. Corporation members expressed appreciation to the Task Force and all members of the community working to address these important issues.

The Medical School Committee paid tribute to retiring member Herbert Kaplan, president of the Warren Alpert Foundation, who has been a stalwart and generous supporter of The Warren Alpert Medical School. Mr. Kaplan received an honorary doctorate from Brown in 2011, and we are indebted for his service and support. We are delighted that Bevin Kaplan, a director of the Warren Alpert Foundation, has agreed to join the Committee and continue the valued relationship between the Medical School and the Alpert Foundation. The Fellows met with members of the Medical Faculty Executive Committee, to learn about issues of concern to Brown’s clinical faculty members.

Finally, the Corporation endorsed a resolution of appreciation for Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper for her stellar service to Brown and wished her the best as she retires from her position at Brown this week.


The meetings held this weekend were focused and productive. Members look forward to continued progress under the strategic plan, and actively supporting faculty, students and staff in all that you do for Brown.


Christina H. Paxson

Further information about the Corporation is available online.