The minimum wage increase in Illinois is expected to add $229,100 in salaries to Knox’s yearly expenses by 2025, without including compression or student workers.
Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Paul Eisenmenger covered the minimum wage as part of his presentation to nearly 30 students in the senior staff town hall on May 6 in the Alumni Room in Old Main. Two presentations were given covering finances and how decisions are made about building and renovations.
Eisenmenger started by saying he supported a living minimum wage, but also said as the lead financial officer of the school he had to also acknowledge that the increase is a “two-sided coin.”
It is currently still unclear how the raise will affect students. Work study is federally funded so the amount students are eligible to receive under it is static. So, the current plan is that the students will be limited to fewer hours, but will still receive the same amount of money under the work study program.
Student Senate hosted the town hall and gave Vice President for Student Development Anne Ehrlich potential topics at their meeting on April 25. The budget breakdown and how decisions are made regarding what renovations and building projects are chosen were two of the topics they suggested.
Currently, around 51 percent of the college’s unrestricted revenue comes from tuition, making up almost $22 million a year. Unrestricted revenue is revenue that does not go towards the endowment or to building projects.
Another 26 percent of the revenue comes from room and board. Non-endowed investment returns and donations make up another 20 percent together, with the rest from miscellaneous revenue.
Eisenmenger gave two breakdowns of the expenses, one for departments and one he said would make more sense intuitively for students. The largest expense in the first breakdown is instruction, followed by auxiliary expenses, institutional support and student services.
The second breakdown shows that 64 percent of the school’s expenses goes to salaries and benefits. Three percent goes to debt service, which is payments to debts taken out for things like large building projects.
One of those large projects is the SMC renovations. Vice President for Advancement Beverly Holmes explained that taking out loans makes it easier to get projects moving faster. Holmes presented on how decisions are made regarding what to renovate and what building projects to move forward with.
Many of the building projects over the past four years have been from the 2018 strategic plan, which will finish at the end of the school year. Building and renovation projects are funded by donors in three ways: donations sought out as part of the strategic plan, passion projects by donors and donations sought out to address needs on campus.
Examples of the first group were the renovations to CFA and SMC and building WAC. In creating the strategic plan, Holmes met with potential donors to see what they would be willing to fund. Not all projects Holmes wanted ended up being feasible, like upgrading the swimming pool.
Students asked Holmes about Borzello Gallery in CFA, which some students were upset about because it replaced a student lounge and study area. Holmes said the gallery space had been included in CFA and not WAC to draw in people who might not feel drawn to visit the art building. Since CFA has public events like concerts, Holmes said they expected more people would visit the gallery by chance.
Students also asked if students had been involved in the decision process for the Borzello Gallery. President Teresa Amott said they included students as part of the 125 people involved in developing the 2018 strategic plan in 2013-14. Including a gallery space had been part of the plan for CFA since then.
“We are a little bit like an ocean liner, we can’t just turn on a dime,” Amott said.
With the 2018 strategic plan coming to a close, Amott said they would be developing a new plan, which is currently planned to focus on “people and places,” including faculty and staff as well as continued building renovations.
Holmes also said that they hoped to have the whale hanging in the new SMC atrium by Homecoming.
The SMC renovations are on track but they are still currently funding the other wings. Raising money can take as long, or longer, than the actual building, Holmes said. It is still unclear which wing will be next and where the offices and classrooms that are displaced will go.
Some of the projects that were funded because of donor passions were BETA House, Post patio and the HOPE Center. Amott noted that many of these projects cost more than people might expect because the school has to follow stricter building codes than private house owners would.
Some of the need-based projects were Pratts Field, Post Lobby and the bathroom in Conger-Neal. The school is currently trying to raise money for phase two of Prats Field, Shurr Hall at Green Oaks, the Aux Gym, resurfacing the Field House and upgrading other residence halls.
Holmes’ presentation also addressed accessibility on campus. All new construction and renovations include considerations for accessibility. The senior staff is considering adding elevators to Old Main and GDH.
A student additionally asked about post-baccs becoming paid positions. Amott responded that some of the administration had been in early talks about possibly opening some of the post-bacc positions to become paid internships. In answering she also addressed the concerns students had been voicing about lacking continuous input in campus projects.
“The input we received is primarily from students who are no longer here,” Amott said. “How do we continue to evolve the input from students so that it isn’t people off campus, it is people that are here?”