Guidelines for College Expenditures

Introduction

The aims of this set of guidelines are clarity, equity, regulatory compliance, and community.

Employees and budget officers constantly have to make choices about spending college money and requesting reimbursements, and they frequently do so without clarity about the reasons for approving or rejecting such requests. If the following guidelines can improve the clarity with which budget officers and others make decisions, it meets its first aim.

The need for equity is obvious enough, but it has to be defined within the context of goals of individual divisions of the college—as well as individuals with particular responsibilities within those divisions and departments. While a person in one division generally should not spend more on meals at a conference than a person in another, one division's mission may necessitate that it spend more on entertainment than another.

Regulatory compliance is a necessary and important aim of these guidelines. Regulations are imposed on the college from, for example, the IRS, federal granting agencies, state government, and foundations. It is our ethical and legal obligation to take these rules seriously and to comply.

In every division, however, the primary guiding principle should be the need to make individual decisions in light of the community good. About every purchase we all need to ask, “Is this an appropriate use of resources, especially of student tuition, and does it further the college's mission?”

For a complete version of Guidelines for College Expenditures, click here.

A Guide for Evaluating Decisions Regarding Expenses

We can guide ourselves through individual decisions by answering a set of questions designed to align particular choices with general principles. Although the list of questions and answers provides general guidance for a variety of decisions, the examples provided are far from exhaustive. All employees should consider these questions when making a purchase—and should consult with budget officers if facing any uncertainty.

Items and Services Which Frequently Raise Questions

Gifts and Compensation(i.e., items or money given to an individual or group)

  1. Honoraria
  2. Gift Certificats or Gift Cards
  3. Gifts in recognition of achievements
  4. Floral tributes

Food and Entertainment

  1. Recruitment
  2. Social events in an office, work group or deparment
  3. Refreshments/Farewell parties
  4. Graduation Events

Departmental Purchases

  1. Books and magazines

Policies for Complex Issues

Certainly, many budget issues are not necessarily so cut and dried. The committee wrestled, for example, with the question of alcohol purchases, and decided that a single rigid policy would not best serve the college interest. Instead, such decisions must be based on principles that are beyond the mandate of the committee to establish.

An example of the competing principles which employees might take into account: If a college guest orders a glass of wine at a restaurant, it would be inhospitable to refuse to pay for that purchase. At the same time, however, despite the wish to be hospitable, the committee did not, generally, favor alcohol purchases made with college money. Yet some committee members thought that the college should not flatly prohibit all alcohol purchases since there is not clear rationale for doing so (neither health nor biblical injunction strictly forbid a piece of cake might do more damage to an individual's health than a glass of wine). Yet again, Calvin employees are always representatives of the college and in no circumstance should anyone risk inebriation, especially at a college-funded event, so a one to two drink maximum seems a reasonable limit, when alcohol is purchased. The complexities of this brief discussion demonstrate the reason why the committee did not offer a single policy on alcohol purchases.

Proposed by the ad hoc Committee on College Expenditures, February 2005
Approved by Cabinet, July 2005
Approved by Planning and Priorities Committee, September 14, 2005
Updated September 2007