Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Students fielded a variety of questions at a GPSA meeting Monday, trying to decide what information would be included in a coming guide on university finances.

October 22, 2019

How Do Cornell’s Finances Work? A Layman’s Guide Is Coming Soon

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By March 2020, students will be able to learn about how the University finances work through a guide written specifically in layman’s terms by the newly formed Ad Hoc Budget Planning Advisory Committee, whose membership spans across undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and faculty.

Entitled “The Cornell Budget: A User’s Guide,” the document aims to address students’ questions and concerns about the most opaque parts of the system.

“People want to know, what sets the TA stipend? How many graduate students can a department financially support each semester? How does the endowment work?” said Manisha Munasinghe grad, a student-elected trustee and a representative of the ad hoc committee at a Graduate and Professional Student Assembly meeting on Monday.

Additional topics that students expressed interest in include the processes behind evaluating student financial aid, costs at the university in addition to tuition such as gym membership and TCAT passes, and employee salaries — particularly those employees with salaries that are near or above seven figures.

“We want to come out with an easy to read report for laypeople so that they can understand how the dollars flow,” said Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan, another representative from the committee. “There’s a real shortage of people who understand the dynamics of the budget process and how it works, and also understand academic directives.”

In addition to Van Loan, the committee consists of another member from the University Assembly, two members from the Student Assembly, two from the GPSA, and two selected by the Employee Assembly, according to the committee’s webpage. In creating this guide, the Committee will be working in collaboration with the Faculty Senate’s Financial Policies Committee.

Specifically, part of the goal of the report is to enable students to better participate in the financial processes of the University by understanding the timeline of the process, so that students are aware of the University’s financial business before decisions are already made.

“We need educated laypeople who can participate in these things,” Van Loan said.