Let us now praise fiscal restraint

by Beacon Staff • March 25, 2009

bAt issue:/b Good news on tuition, financial aid, executive pay freezes, Hand Me Down Night.

bOur view:/b Fiscal frugality is demanded by the recession, but must not fade when good times return.

We never thought we'd say it, but, after a series of important budget decisions made in the past two weeks by Emerson's administration and Student Government Association, we're proud of the fiscal restraint demonstrated by both groups. We hope sound money policy becomes the rule, not the exception. It shouldn't take a global recession to inspire fiscal reform at Emerson.

The Board of Trustees hit a home run when it laid out next year's budget plans, including tuition and financial aid. While tuition will increase a modest 3.7 percent, it'll be offset for needy students by a robust 12.4 percent expansion of the financial aid pool. This is the collegiate counterpart to a progressive tax code: Students and families who can afford it will pay more, while the burden on less well-to-do students decreases.

This is precisely the formula institutions like Harvard University have used to increase not just racial diversity, but socioeconomic diversity, among their student population.

Still, this is merely an important first step. The financial aid fund was neglected for too long-as evidenced by Emerson's perennial spot on the "Worst financial aid" list of big college ranking books-to be repaired in one fell swoop. And Sallie Mae's recent announcement that it will require loan repayments beginning in the first semester after a student borrows will likely increase the reliance on Emerson's aid. A re-dedication to replenishing financial aid, even if it means tuition hikes, is needed for years to come.

Equally impressive is the board's decision to institute a one-year wage freeze on the college's executives. Whatever students think about the way this college is run, Emerson's leadership deserves respect this year for sacrificing their extra pay for our financial aid. Further, the trimming of $1.25 million in unnecessary budgetary fat is an ever-welcome move. We hope the pecuniary poundage stays off.

While we disagreed with SGA President Scott Fisher's proposal to freeze tuition this year (the equivalent of an ill-advised tax cut), we would have liked to see the trustees take him up on his idea to provide a four-year forecast of tuition.

If President Obama can make a 10-year national budget prediction, Emerson can make a non-binding guess at what tuition will look like four years from now. Still, the half-hour huddle between Fisher, Emerson President Jacqueline Liebergott and Chairman of the Board Peter Meade regarding the matter creates the reassuring image of unified leadership.

Fisher and the SGA provided another welcome display of thriftiness two weeks ago when they announced a budget for Hand Me Down Night that is less than half of last year's.

Hand Me Down Night 2008 cost so much that two senators quit in protest and students expressed outrage toward the event's opulence. This page decried the overspending then, and we commend the SGA's restraint now.

It's refreshing to see Emerson's leaders making sound decisions regarding money matters, especially because the wavering economy demands it.

The real test will come when prosperity, and the temptation to roll back reform, returns. It will, and we hope the administration and SGA continue to spend responsibly when it does.,iBeacon/i Editorial Board