Over the years, students have played the game of guessing how much landscaping costs the school. Some guess hundreds, others thousands, and there are always those students who have heard rumors that Rollins spends $1 million a month to maintain Mills Lawn. These figures are mere guesses, but it makes one question the costs and expenses. So where does all of that money go?
Campus Facilities is split into three operational departments from most expensive to least: housekeeping, maintenance and buildings/ground. The truth is that groundskeeping is the cheapest portion of the Facilities budget, while the most money goes toward housekeeping. Scott Bitikofer, head of Campus Facilities, explains that the housekeeping costs are more than the lawn care because “we have three times the staff in housekeeping than in grounds.”
Additionally, Facilities has the following two maintenance funds: the operating fund and the capital fund. The operating fund is set aside for what is already expected for the school year, including the constant upkeep of the landscaping and the cleaning of the buildings. This year, the operating fund totals at about $100 million. The capital fund, on the other hand, is saved for bigger projects. Over the summer, 21 apartments at Sutton Place were renovated with new plumbing, carpeting and other amenities; the funding for that renovation came from the capital budget. For other major projects such as the Rex Beach makeover, the school uses bond proceeds, source gifts, and occasionally combines the former with portions of the capital budget.
As for the food catered to the students every day, it is pricey, with approximately $5 million spent a year.
Again, however, the money is not only spent on food, but on the staff as well, with about 42 percent going toward the food and 40 percent going toward the labor; the rest is spent on janitorial items and potential replacement needs. When asked about the high price of the food in the cafeteria, Gerard Short, general manager of Dining Services, responded that “we operate a more upscale program [than other colleges]… That makes it more expensive.” Of course, no one wants to spend excessive amounts of money on food, and Short agreed, saying that the service “struggles with the rising cost of food and labor.”
Unfortunately, finding out which department is the most expensive is impossible because it is classified information. Bill Short, assistant vice president of finance, explained, “We don’t even share that information with other departments.” Short reiterated what Bitikofer said by adding, “Most all of our expenses go into salary. Sixty-two percent of our money goes to paying people.” Like most nonprofit schools, Rollins thrives mostly off of donations from alumni and other people. “We take donations to help support our operations,” Short said, going on to say that most of the donations are restricted. This restriction means that donors choose how Rollins spends the donated funds, and the school is legally bound to use the funds solely for that purpose.
Along with taking bets about how much the upkeep of Mills Lawn costs, there is a constant comparison between Rollins’ expenses and those of other local schools. At schools like St. Leo University, food service is supplemented with tuition. Stetson University has an expectation that food services will bring in an income.
Rollins makes no profit from Dining Services because it is run by a private company, Sodexo. However, it is true that Rollins’ tuition is much more expensive than that of other not-for-profit schools, and the Rollins financial aid packages are not as large with Stetson’s total amount of aid awarded being $13,068,706 and Rollins only offering $7,265,374. Still, Short pointed out that Rollins “makes decisions based on the program, not the profit,” so while things may be more expensive, they are typically worth the price.
There is no doubt that college is expensive and that Rollins is no exception, but it is reassuring to know that the expenses are distributed evenly. Students may now rest assured: half of their tuition does not water Mills Lawn.