Section: News

Student Council discusses financial budget, endowment

On Sunday, Student Council met for the first time since spring break to reallocate funds for campus renovations, review the College’s financial budget and approve a new student organization. 

Officer reports kicked off the meeting, with Vice President for Student Life Taylor Womack ’24 encouraging students to apply for next year’s Student Council. The application has been reopened for two positions — Housing and Dining Committee Chair and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion — and the updated deadline is Thursday. Womack added that the Office of Social Engagement has two upcoming workshops to teach student leaders how to renew their organizations through Kenyon Connect. 

Other officers updated the Council on upcoming events. Campus Senate co-Chair Cooper Bertschi ’26 encouraged students to attend an artificial intelligence discussion on Tuesday, and First-Year President Erik Kim ’27 added that the First-Year Fling will be held on April 5 in Gund Commons. Building, Grounds and Sustainability Committee Chair Isabel Braun ’26 announced that the pollinator garden will officially open on April 15 with a celebratory event. 

Social Board Representative Chloe Goldstein ’25 encouraged students to pick up free solar-eclipse glasses, which Social Board will distribute on April 8. She added that Summer Sendoff will feature a “sendoff week,” with events and giveaways throughout the week leading up to Sendoff. 

In honor of President Julie Kornfeld’s inauguration, Dean of Students Brian Janssen reminded students that April 10 will be a Day of Service. Volunteer events will take place throughout the Village of Gambier and surrounding areas in Mount Vernon. 

Student Council President Marissa Sun ’25 continued discussion on campus renovations for the Gunderdome, Weaver Cottage and various outdoor spaces. The Council voted to reallocate funds from previously canceled projects for these renovations with unanimous approval. 

Sun added that more Adirondack chairs will be purchased through previously allocated funds from last year’s Student Council and distributed across campus. 

Following officer reports, the Council then spoke with Vice President of Finance Todd Burson, who provided an overview of Kenyon’s financial budget and endowment. Burson discussed the operating budget, which is currently around $190 million, and the sources for that revenue. As a tuition-dependent school, 81% of Kenyon’s revenue comes from tuition and fees, with around 12% originating from the endowment. 

Regarding expenses, over a third of Kenyon’s budget goes to personnel and payroll. Another third is dedicated to financial aid — around $60 million — with a projected increase to $65 million next year. According to Burson, a majority of the financial aid budget comes from tuition revenue. 

“A vast majority of our financial aid budget doesn’t come from the endowment,” he said. “Only about 15 percent comes from the endowment. Really, the bulk of the financial aid comes from tuition dollars.” 

Burson then compared the endowment per student to 16 of Kenyon’s peer schools. As Kenyon’s endowment averages to around $298k per student, on the lower end of the scale, this requires Kenyon to be strategic with the budget. “We don’t have the luxury of saying ‘hey, let’s try this, let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work, that’s not a big deal,’” Burson said. “We are very strategic and very intentional whenever we do anything with spending money.” 

Following questions from the Council, Burson clarified that the endowment is currently outsourced to Cornerstone Partners in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was a cost-saving decision for the College. Other questions focused on debt, particularly in the case of new buildings on campus. According to Burson, the College has five different debt issues, totaling around $242 million. Most of the principal payments will begin from 2036 to 2047, with Kenyon currently paying around $1 million a year for one debt issue. Regarding the recent buildings, Burson added that several recent projects were majority donor funded, such as Bexley Hall and the upcoming South Campus residence halls. 

At the end of the meeting, the Council also voted to approve a new student organization, Natural Hair Club. The organization’s founder, Sydney Lewis ’26, began the club to foster discussion on natural hair and to destigmatize body hair. “It’s important for people to learn more about their hair,” Lewis said. “Hair is a really important thing for a lot of people, but specifically for African Americans, hair is a significant part of culture.” 

The Council asked questions about funding, upcoming events and the organization’s unconventional leadership structure, as Lewis hopes to have a representative for each hair type in the organization. Though the Council had some concerns, they unanimously voted to approve the organization. 

Student Council will next meet Sunday at 7 p.m. in Chalmers Library room 302. All students are welcome to attend either in person or remotely.

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