While attending Barnard, one would have to be oblivious to sidestep the whispers—scratch that, the pervasive feeling—that our school is embroiled in a constant financial struggle. The idea for writing this week’s lead story was born out of precisely that sentiment.
We wanted to understand why Barnard handed out little bear-shaped banks for us to hold our spare change until we could donate it to the college’s financial aid fund (yeah, right). And why does Barnard advertise its “Mind the Gap” day, which highlights when tuition dollars officially run out because the cost of a Barnard education is, in fact, higher than the skyrocketing cost of tuition? Why do some other members of the Seven Sisters have endowments of over $1 billion while we’re still stuck in the $200 millions?
Because of these questions and the overwhelming zeitgeist present on Barnard’s campus, I was shocked when, during a press conference for student journalists, President Spar stated that Barnard has never been in a better financial situation than it is in now. With all the rumors to the contrary, how could this be true? When Lily Fishman, this week’s author, and I heard Chief Operating Officer Greg Brown corroborate Barnard’s financial health, we knew the story should answer those very queries.
I anticipate some anger from Barnard students upon reading this piece. If Barnard has never been doing better, why are there still students with what they feel is insufficient financial aid? There will be a whole new set of questions that arise from reading that Barnard’s financial reality is exactly the opposite of what we formerly believed to be true. What is paramount to keep in mind when reading this piece is that Barnard is doing well in comparison to Barnard’s own standards, and these standards are incredibly different than those of other colleges.
For some, college is a time saturated with endless grants, free trips to foreign countries, plush dorm accommodations, and exquisite dining halls. My sister is a freshman at Princeton—I know how it is in some places. But for Barnard students, college often means something different, something simpler.
This is hardly to say that we are roughing it in Morningside Heights because the Diana doesn’t have fireplaces and Hewitt doesn’t have chandeliers. But it is to say that our college experience appears to be significantly different from students’ experiences at peer institutions, which can be accounted for by the comparison between Barnard’s finances and those of other colleges and not by the state of Barnard’s finances in a vacuum—which, incidentally, are doing quite well.
Perhaps a prerequisite for understanding Barnard's finances is an adjustment in expectations. Money doesn’t grow on the magnolia tree—but there’s also no reason to be ashamed of that.