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Understanding Trinity’s Budget


Our “Campus Conversations” on Thursday, October 1, will include a discussion of Trinity’s budget.  This blog provides some basic information to help members of the campus community understand the elements of Trinity’s budget, tuition price and financial aid.

We start with revenues, the money we receive that is the basis for our budget:

In Fiscal 2021, the budget anticipates that Trinity will collect about $45 million in gross revenues.  Of that amount, we expect about $33 million in gross tuition revenues.  “Gross” means the total value before we apply discounts and reductions, explained in the next illustration.  In addition to tuition revenues, we receive about $12 million in other revenues.  So, overall, we receive $45 million in gross revenues.

But the tuition figure is based on the anticipated number of enrollments in each academic school and program, and some of that tuition revenue is discounted because of Trinity grants and internal scholarships.  The amount of the discount is $13 million in Fiscal 2021 (our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30).  So, to calculate net tuition revenues, we subtract the amount of the discount from the amount of the gross tuition revenues as seen in this illustration:

With the $20 million in net tuition revenues and $12 million in other revenues, we have $32 million in net revenues to subsidize all of our expenses in Fiscal 2021.

Note that the “discount” is only Trinity institutional grants and scholarships; it does not include federal financial aid, state aid or other outside support.  At the bottom of this blog there’s a discussion of financial aid and those sources.  Simply put, all of those other outside sources subsidize the $20 million in net tuition revenues that Trinity receives, and also provide some refunds to students on the federal loans.

So, Trinity has $32 million to spend on its expenses in Fiscal 2021.  Here’s how we spend that money:

63% of the expense budget, or $20 million, is for salaries and fringe benefits, which is fairly typical in higher education.  Our salaries are modest compared to peer schools, and our staff is relatively small.  I am always so grateful to all of our faculty and staff for their devotion to Trinity and our students despite the fact that they could make a lot more money elsewhere.  Thank you!

After salaries and benefits, the next biggest budget item is for our physical plant — 14% of the budget or $4.5 million which goes to pay for utilities (electric, gas, water add up to $1.8 million!) and the services of our Aramark partners for mechanical and engineering staff, housekeeping, grounds and repairs.

About 5% of the budget goes toward Security and the shuttle service — a big chunk of expense that is essential.

Beyond those categories, you can see in the illustration some of the other major expenses like food service, insurance, library databases, maintenance contracts on our technology.  You see a $700,000 number for “bad debt” which is mostly unpaid tuition — when students do not pay tuition, after a while the accountants have to treat that as a bad debt and the accounting rules require that we set aside money to offset that loss.  We call this “accounts receivable” and the number has grown in recent years, something we are trying to address with improved financial counseling and enlarged financial aid resources.

After all of those listed expenses, we have just $2.9 million for “everything else” which is not a lot of money for a long list of direct expenses for everything from printing and postage, to office supplies, travel expenses, marketing and advertising, and similar costs.

Below are illustrations that are a different way to look at our net revenues and expenses:

Financial Aid is a big part of our budget discussion, and financial aid starts with setting tuition price each year.  Trinity’s tuition price is significantly lower than other private colleges.  The two illustrations below show how Trinity compares to the national average tuition for private colleges since 1991, and how Trinity’s full-time tuition, room and board stack up against other similar colleges and universities:

In the chart above, Trinity’s full-time tuition and room/board charges for Fiscal 18-19-20-21 are in the purple columns toward the left, and the illustration shows that they are just about the lowest of the cohort.  We have similar charts for our part-time undergraduate and graduate per-credit tuitions.

We know that our students need subsidies to pay for tuition at Trinity.  This chart shows the sources of the subsidies (financial aid):

Adding up all of those sources of financial aid, the total is $31,794,213 — this aid covers not only tuition but “total cost of attendance” expenses for students like room and board, books and other expenses.  In addition, some of the federal loan money is returned to students in the form of refunds.

These snapshots of our budget and financial aid provide a window into some important areas of Trinity’s finances, but there’s a lot more in our total financial picture which I will save for another time.  Understanding Trinity’s budget is the baseline, and its complicated, but there are no secrets and it’s a good way for everyone in the community to know more about how we operate.  I will be happy to answer questions and provide additional information during our Campus Conversations, or send me a message and I will answer.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: