Residential colleges adjust to revised budgets

Two colleges have trimmed events in response to smaller budgets, yet students said their Yale experience has been largely unaffected.
Two colleges have trimmed events in response to smaller budgets, yet students said their Yale experience has been largely unaffected. Photo by Brianne Bowen.

Nearly two years after administrators decided to equalize residential college budgets, some students in the once-wealthiest colleges interviewed said they have noticed the drop in resources.

Administrators announced the change in May 2010 in an attempt to make the opportunities available to students more equitable across residential colleges. The University determined an appropriate budget for all colleges and distributed University funds to those that received smaller returns from their own endowed funds. University President Richard Levin said the two colleges whose endowment returns exceed the current equalized budget can spend these funds on initiatives such as “financial aid and student support,” but not on “student activities.”

Though residential college endowments have grown unevenly in the past because of alumni donations directed to specific colleges, all future donations to residential colleges will go into a “common fund” and will be redistributed evenly between the colleges, Levin said. Chair of the Council of Masters and Morse College Master Frank Keil said the budgets are now “as equal as they can be” but added that some variation remains “due to things like endowed speaker funds.” He added that the Morse budget is now larger than it was at the beginning of his tenure.

“Compared to 2001 when I started as Master, we are still much better off in inflation-adjusted dollars,” he said, “but of course we all have had to deal with the budget realities of the last few years.”

Several students interviewed in Pierson College and Jonathan Edwards College said while they have noticed that the new policy has left them with fewer activities, the change has not significantly altered their college experiences. Alyssa Navarro ’14, president of JE’s Student Activities Committee, said the college’s activities budget has shrunk as a result of the equalization.

“There have been some traditions in JE that have been going on for a while, but because of the equalizations we’ve had to cut back,” she said.

For example, Dana Zhu ’12 said JE no longer sponsors dinners for championship-winning IM teams. Though she said she would “really hate to see certain traditions in JE that [she has] grown up with fade,” she said she has noticed no other changes so far.

Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt used to host an annual trip to Italy with Pierson seniors, but the trip has been cancelled for the last two years due to the budget equalization, said Pierson student Jonathan Martin ’12. He added that student organizations like the international affairs publication The Globalist, which previously relied on Pierson funding, have been forced to find other sources of funds.

Still, several students, such as Pierson senior Vanessa Baratta ’12, said the effort to equalize college budgets has not prevented individual colleges from retaining their unique traditions. Baratta added that the equalized budgets will be especially important once the new residential colleges are built to ensure those colleges begin with the same resources as others.

JE student Spencer Cromwell ’12 said the main way he has benefited from college funding is through his participation with the JE Orchestra, which has retained its funding from the college.

Taneja Young ’12, another JE student, said despite the elimination of some popular trips, such as the visit to Per Se Restaurant in New York, she does not think the change has “practically affected [her] experience.” She added that she does not think “future JE’ers will miss what they never had.”

In a similar vein, Martin said upperclassmen are more aware of the changes caused by the new policy than younger students.

Since 2008, eight “operations managers” have been appointed to work with residential college masters for financial oversight.


  • lakia

    Might as well start the indoctrination into Socialism and the new era of “social justice” in college, if not sooner. (Where all the world is equal and everyone always pulls their “fair share” (another Obamanism) of the workload.)

    • ShaveTheWhales

      obvious troll is obvious.

      cool story, bro.

      • JE14

        I don’t think he/she’s trolling. Inequality is what drives the human race. Once you eliminate it, there’s really no point in competing anymore. Between colleges, it really works against the concept of each college having an identity; the 12 colleges are slowly but surely moving towards 12 dorms.

        • ldffly

          I am afraid you’re right. Dormitories it will be.

          Pres. Levin resign, please. Believe it or not, Yale functioned before you were here. It just might function after you’re gone.

  • DocHollidaye

    Go to France, isn’t it cheaper? Great food and Great art too!

  • ldffly

    This is surely one of the more maddening decisions taken by Pres. Levin. I know Yale has had centralized budgeting for a long time (whereas Harvard at least in the old days had a policy of “every boat floats on its own bottom”), but this is really taking it too far. Suppose Branford College had an alum who amassed a billion dollars and left it all to the college. Not the university mind you, but to the college. What would happen? Does the university take the excess? Does the university even allow the college to accept it?

    I wonder if this policy will be applied to various schools and departments? I know some are better endowed than others. If the History Department (not my old one, just an example) received $100 million in endowment money, I wonder if the university would exercise total control over its investment and expenditure?

    It was always an imperfect copy, but Yale as an American version of the OxBridge model is going, going, and going to be gone. Enjoy it while you can.

  • recentgrad

    I am now much less likely to donate money to my residential college.