David Provost Talks College Finances

By MATT SMITH

David Provost, the executive vice president for finance and administration, discussed the college’s long-term debt and the ways in which the office is working to stop the continued trend of increased student tuition in a talk on Friday, Nov. 2 as part of SGA’s “How Midd Works” initiative. He outlined the road to financial sustainability in light of the college’s current financial challenges.

Provost said Middlebury has over $278 million in long term debt and has been running noticeable operating deficits in recent years. The challenge, Provost explained, is how to balance Middlebury’s unique situation, including aging buildings and extra costs through the language schools and schools abroad, with the school’s desire to both keep tuition costs relatively low and grow the endowment.

“We can’t keep putting this on students and their families with a five-percent tuition increase,” Provost said, citing the school’s goal to lower the annual increase to near three percent in the next few years.

Since arriving at the college in 2017, Provost has tried to assess areas of possible waste — he noted that academic spaces have a 37-percent utilization rate, and that the college spends between $7 and $8 million yearly on travel expenses. The plan for the financial future, he explained, includes identifying areas of waste while also planning Middlebury more efficiently.

One main tenet of the administration’s plan is workforce planning, a system that will seek to ensure Middlebury is not overstaffed, using retirement incentives and more stringent hiring practices to make the college more financially secure. 

Provost emphasized that this system was not about layoffs, but about making sure future faculty are in keeping with the college’s needs. One student from the audience said that some faculty members, however, were worried about who would ultimately be asked to leave.

Another student, Kate Claman ’19, president of MGallery in the Old Stone Mill, expressed frustration at the lack of communication about whether the Old Stone Mill might be sold, a rumor that has persisted. 

“Nobody had discussed with us that there was a possibility the space would be sold this year,” she said, noting that MGallery had shows planned through January. 

Provost emphasized that all of the college’s financial decisions will be made with the goal of preserving the spirit of the institution and ensuring that both faculty and student organizations are handled compassionately. 

In the context of providing insight into a little-known or understood aspect of Middlebury, this forum emphasized how important it is for the college’s students to understand the systems that affect us and take action in ensuring transparent communication. 

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David Provost Talks College Finances