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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

Refurbishing helps cut expenses

By Bethany Jacobson
Staff Writer


Friday, September 17, 2004

Despite increased tuition, staff reorganization and rumors of financial turmoil, returning Oles were welcomed by a new Cage, plans for a wind turbine and 20 new Adirondack chairs scattered about the campus.

These changes are a result of college trying to save money and, ultimately, to keep the college both financially and ecologically sustainable for years to come.

According to Dean of Students Greg Kneser, the college budget is back on track, thanks mostly to last years tuition increases. But, Kneser said, Its not feasible to keep on asking for increases like that. So, other measures have been taken to ensure a continuing income for the college.

The chairs, although seen as unnecessary by some, were inexpensive. Built by St. Olaf Director of Facilities Pete Sandberg, the chairs are made from the old Skoglund bleachers. Their Dutch pine boards were deemed perfect for the big chairs, which were assembled by the admissions staff from pieces cut by Sandberg, and stained by student workers.

Its a good way of thinking about the resources you have in front of you, Kneser said, mentioning that the high-quality, cedar-smelling wood is no longer commercially available.

Many of the other money-saving measures the college has made also fall under the heading of sustainability and planning for long-term benefits. The college requested and recently received a $1.5 million dollar grant from Xcel Energy to build a wind turbine on campus, which will reduce the colleges electrical costs by one-third.

Kneser says that the turbine will save the college approximately $250,000 each year, which is like having another eight million dollars in the endowment [fund].

The wind turbine is non-polluting and ecologically friendly, and Kneser hopes it will encourage students to think about the practical uses of wind-power as they go out into the world.

The sale of WCAL is another example of the college reallocating resources in an attempt to use them in the more effectively way.

"It was a very difficult decision," said Kneser.

St. Olaf also reduced spending in the food budget. After consultation with Bon Appétit, the college discovered that it was paying for 25 more days of meals each year than other colleges of the same size. This disparity was due to St. Olafs policy of offering meals on breaks and of serving three meals a day on weekends. Cutting back the size of the meal plan helped to reduce the budget.

In order to help students who must stay on campus during breaks, as well as reduce crowding in the cafeteria, the college remodeled the Cage, expanding the serving area and adding another cashier station.

Serving customized food orders is cheaper than en-masse preparations that may or may not be thrown away at the end of the day. By serving more meals in the Cage and less in the cafeteria, the college reduces both its food expenditure and the amount of food waste it creates each year.

The college has also modified the transit system, changing the daytime bus from a scheduled run to an on-call service. While Kneser states that this change was more of a cost-saving issue for Carleton, the change has also resulted in extended transportation hours for Oles, with buses running until 8:30 pm.

The on-call service, like many of the other changes on campus, may or may not be maintained past this year, depending on what impact it has on the student body.

Just because you can do something more inexpensively doesnt mean its the right thing, Kneser says. There are a lot of changes for us to really pay attention to. He said officials want to make sure that these changes are in the best interests of the students.

The money from the wind-turbine and the sale of WCAL will not influence or affect the St. Olaf budget until the next fiscal year, so the current balanced budget is mainly due to tuition increases, cuts in areas such as the cafeteria and staffing, and donations from Partners in Annual Giving. The income from other on-campus changes will help to ensure that the budget remains balanced in years to come.





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