Budget cuts won’t affect Reunions ’09
Despite the current economic environment, the waves of orange and black alumni are set to hit campus on schedule and in full force come late May for Reunions — though they are slightly more aware of their pocketbooks.
At a town hall meeting last week, administrators detailed the University’s plan to cut $82 million from its operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Executive Vice President Mark Burstein said Reunions 2010 may be scaled down in light of the economic downturn. But the University’s cost-saving initiatives, will not impact this year’s Reunions in May, Margaret Miller ’80, Alumni Association director and assistant vice president for alumni affairs, said in an e-mail.
“Many of the classes had already set their ‘breakeven’ budgets for Reunions prior to the economic crisis,” Miller said. “That being said, they’re making very good decisions this year about how they are spending their budgets.”
She added that calculating expenses from this year’s Reunions and measuring the impact of the economy on the event’s attendance will allow classes to better prepare for future Reunions. Miller said that she did not know if projections for the Annual Giving campaign would need to be readjusted in light of the current economic conditions.
Miller said that the University has no plans to significantly raise the costs for food and housing at Reunions. The cost of on-campus housing for those who attend Reunions has increased by $5 for the entire three-day weekend because of the price of linen rental, she noted, adding that most alumni stay in area hotels off-campus.
“I think there are definitely people who feel the impact of the economy, and coming to Reunions [for them] is a meaningful financial expense,” Reunions co-chair David King ’84 said. “We hope everyone can make it, but there are certainly people in our class and others who feel the impact of a soft economy.”
Sandra Tsang Cohen ’89, who chairs her class’ Reunions committee, said that she anticipates that the economy will be a deterrent for her classmates from returning to Reunions, so she secured hotel rooms in the local area a year in advance to ensure a lower price.
Several of her classmates said they hesitate to attend Reunions because of their financial concerns, but Cohen said she believed it was even more important that alumni, including those who are unemployed, attend Reunions in light of the economic conditions.
“It’s a great networking opportunity,” Cohen said. “They have the Princeton connection — it’s worth it just for that. You could get a job out of it.”
She added that her class’ theme for this year’s Reunions was titled “Juggling It All and Having a Ball” because many members of her class were now at the heights of their lives and careers.
Cohen said that 325 classmates, 200 spouses and 420 kids have already taken advantage of the $300 early registration fee and signed up to attend Reunions weekend. Though her class has historically had low attendance numbers at Reunions, she expected around 400 classmates to return, she said.
The Fifth, 10th and 25th Reunions are the most important and draw the most alumni, King said. Despite the additional costs associated with these classes’ Reunions, however, alumni from his class are still planning to attend, he said.
“We would expect to have 50 percent of our class return,” King added. “The 25th is a big deal: It’s when you get your jacket.”
King said that the discounted early registration fee of $750 was extended to the end of March to encourage more members of his class to return. The fee includes a blazer, jacket, shirt, umbrella and all meals and entertainment for the weekend.
King added, though, that some of his classmates who live far from the University and usually bring their entire families have decided to come alone to save money.
“We run Reunions on a tight budget as it is,” King said. “I don’t think many classes are wasting money, but I’m sure there will be a greater focus on cost-cutting if this economic environment continues.”
Deidre Reis ’99, a member of the Reunions planning committee for her class, said that the committee will offer less class paraphernalia and will not raise the registration fee — $235 for early registration and $285 for regular registration — from what the Class of 1998 charged for its 10th Reunion last year.
“There’s definitely this heightened emphasis on being as cost-conscious as possible,” Reis said. “[Classmates] can pay extra for a T-shirt if they want.” Reis added that alumni don’t have to pay class fees if their classes are not having major Reunions.
Despite the cost-cutting measures, Reis, who has attended every Reunion since graduation, said she did not expect the mood at Reunions to be less festive this year than in years past.
“We have great entertainment that we’re excited about with a Kentucky Derby theme,” Reis said. “Once people return to campus they’ll be in a different world and can hopefully put [financial concerns] aside for three days.”
King added that he thinks the significance of a major Reunion outweighs concerns over the economic climate.
“The 25th Reunion is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” King said. “There’s nothing like seeing people you went to school with 25 years ago. Now is a tough time, but it’ll never be your 25th Reunion again.”
An earlier version of this story misidentified the class year of Sandra Tsang Cohen ’89.