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Budget Battles: Students Want More


The ring on the left is mostly filled and has "69%" written in the center. The text in the center of the circle states that "69% of respondents understand what Giving Day is." The ring on the right is less filled and has "21%" written in the center. The text in the center of the circle states that "21% of respondents know where the money goes."
The Herald reached out via Instagram to get a poll on how much students know about certain aspects of the budget. Key results have been summarized in the pie charts above. (Graphic by Aminah Jenkins)

Meredith College, as a private institution, is not required to share its budget publicly and has chosen not to, with the last record of the Meredith budget online being 2020. In the interest of transparency, The Herald further investigated to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes in terms of the inner workings of the College’s budget and some of the reasoning behind the decisions made.


In terms of laying the foundation as to the basics of how the budget at Meredith works, Dr. Tammi Jackson, the Vice President for Business and Finance, explained that the “budget process is very collaborative” and that the school is in the beginning cycle of the budget at this time. Dr. Jackson went on to explain that tuition and fees are the “bread and butter” of Meredith and that any extension beyond that should still be supportive of the College’s vision and mission.


The next primary source of funding comes from donors. Dr. Jackson specified that not all money offered to the College is accepted, which is part of the school’s gift acceptance policy. This is then further broken down into restricted and unrestricted funds, where restricted funds are limited to being spent on whatever the donor requested they be spent on and where unrestricted funds are spent “at the discretion of the College.” The final component of the budget, according to Dr. Jackson, is private gifts and grants as well as other sources such as “investments, rentals on campus [and] vending machine money.”


With this in mind, the proposed method of how the budget works explains, to some extent, how the Communication Health and Exercise Sport Science (CHESS) building was established through restricted funding. When asked about the upset surrounding the development of the building when other buildings had not yet been updated instead, Dr. Jackson explained that she did not know that students had concerns.


In response to how students could reach out to express their thoughts and concerns, Dr. Jackson first considered suggesting going through the Dean of Students or the Student Government Association (SGA), but then stated that she wanted to further think about the most effective method to use.


The newest proposed updates are to Jones Auditorium, which were first announced on April 4 during the 2023 Woman of Achievement ceremony. During the event, President Jo Allen explained that the plans recently approved by the Board of Trustees include renaming the space the Meredith College Performing Arts Center as well as creating a larger lobby for a banquet area and an accessible bathroom. The College still needs to raise an additional $3-4 million for the project.


President Allen told The Herald that the renovation project is "donor driven and will be funded separately from the College’s operating budget." In an email to Meredith students and staff on April 10, she explained that the renovation would include “new carpet, seating, elevator/accessibility improvements and more.”


The Herald also reached out to students via an Instagram poll to see what their thoughts were on this recent announcement. Many students were upset and questioned why other parts of campus with a greater need have not yet been addressed. One student wrote, "Commuter lots deserve to be repaved before buildings are added on [to]! They're awful." Another student responded that they were confused on why Jones Auditorium was selected. “I feel like there are some other buildings that are in dire need of renovation," they said.


Some students were thrilled that the auditorium was being updated. Savannah Stainback, ‘25, told The Herald that the backstage area had leaks and walls falling over, and that there was only one accessible bathroom in the entire building. Stella Bowers, ‘23, was also excited about the renovation, but hoped that funding would be allocated for the other theatre spaces. “The downstairs area is so run down and has black mold,” she said. “Let’s make the whole building better.”


A majority of the responses were from students wondering why the money wasn't being put towards renovations within residence halls, Lux Hall, bathrooms and elevators. When asked if prior to The Herald’s post, students were aware of these renovations, only 17% answered yes.


Meredith College also hosts an annual Giving Day, an event with a yearly financial goal that has been exceedingly met year after year. When asked, 69% of students understood the concept behind Giving Day. On the contrary, only 21% answered that they actually know how Giving Day funds are distributed following Giving Day. When asked about what information they wished they knew about Meredith’s budget, all respondents said the same thing: where the money goes.


Dr. Tammi Jackson emphasized that the budget process is "collaborative" to ensure all the voices are being heard through the budget. Dr. Jackson added that she felt it important to have conversations and host student forums, but says that when the majority of these events are hosted, "no students would show up" besides those who requested it. In response to being asked about ideas and proposals to create more engagement and advertisement of these types of forums, Dr. Jackson says that she works on the basis of "the drive of the students" and that she "doesn’t want to force something on students who are not interested in [budget forums]" but is willing to speak with students on the matter.


In further exploration as to why the budget is not shared publicly, and given examples of other private schools like Elon University that share their budget, Dr. Jackson explained that Elon was an "outlier" and that most private schools do not share their budget publicly. Upon further research, many other private institutions do have budgets and financial reports that are easily accessible online, such as Duke University and UNC Charlotte. Dr. Jackson believes that having the budget open leaves the school open to "a lot of misinterpretation and miscommunication" based on not knowing the "ins-and-outs" and therefore does not post for those reasons, "especially being a small college."


Overall, upon further investigation with Dr. Tammi Jackson and gathered information from students, emphasis has been placed on specific elements of the budget and further investigation has allowed for greater understanding of the budget decisions and the impact it has on the campus and its community.


By Shae-Lynn Henderson, Features Editor, and Evelyn Summers, Senior Copy Editor

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