Provost, CFO describe budget planning for Fiscal 2015



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TO: Faculty and staff
FROM: Provost Mike Sherman and CFO David Cummins
RE: Budget Planning for Fiscal 2015
DATE: March 4, 2014


The budget planning process for fiscal 2014-15 is underway. Deans and Vice Presidents have received preliminary worksheets with proposed budget allocations that are starting points for achieving a balanced budget.

As we do each year, we start with facts, some reasonable assumptions, and a forecast:

  • We are anticipating a $15 million gap between revenues and expenses. That figure represents 4% of our total general fund budget.
  • 95% of our revenue comes from enrollment; we are planning conservatively for a 4% drop in enrollment given the declining number of high school graduates, market competition for new students, and retention challenges with current students.
  • We cannot yet predict the full impact on our state subsidy of the new state funding formula, which rewards universities for student performance (course completion, persistence, retention, and degree completion).
  • The process of balancing last year's budget included using some one-time funds; this year's budget process must reduce ongoing expenses and provide longer-term solutions.

Our Board of Trustees has requested that the budget be balanced without further exhausting limited reserves, and that current budgets be based on revenues exceeding expenses. We believe it is prudent to be conservative in estimating our revenues and aggressive in controlling our expenses so that we have the resources to invest in our future.

If we can address the budget gap with a focus on improving efficiency and generating new revenue (with increased enrollment and other initiatives), we will be better prepared to invest in growth.

The Deans and Vice Presidents have each been provided budget allocations as a starting point for building their budgets. How were those allocations generated?

  • The priority is on student academic success, so programs that demonstrate continued opportunities for student success receive more support.
  • Some areas have vacancies and open positions. We are encouraging leadership to think about position eliminations and more efficient work flow.
  • Some areas have higher administrative costs than others. We are suggesting that leadership figure out new ways of working to reduce those costs.
  • Some areas are more aligned with the overall vision for growth (Vision 2020) and opportunities to generate new revenue. We are asking leadership to realign all of their programs and services to support growth.

Our budget assumptions are based on realities we face today. Of course, if our enrollment increases beyond projections--if we bring in more new students and retain the ones we have in greater percentages--we will adjust our budget projections. We are heartened by the many initiatives underway that are cause for optimism as we look to the future. Those initiatives involve supporting our students:

  • Providing more scholarship dollars to attract better prepared students and grow a diverse student body
  • Coordinating all advising services to support our students and position them for continued success
  • Analyzing data to understand and potentially predict or anticipate student performance and the support or guidance structures necessary for student success
  • Expanding access to innovative, convenient and effective modes of learning tailored to the diverse needs of students to enhance their success
  • Investing in new multidisciplinary academic/research programs that align with Vision 2020
  • Providing more robust career services, including internships and co-ops that both enhance student learning and ensure their success after graduation.

These initiatives are an investment in our students and in our University. The more we prepare our students for academic success, the more likely we are to retain them and enable them to graduate, thereby ensuring that we generate revenue needed to support future generations of students.

Remember that roughly 95% of our general fund revenue comes from tuition, fees and state support of successful students. The more students we attract, and the more students who succeed to graduation, the brighter our financial future.

Please provide support, ideas, energy and dedication to your colleagues and leadership as we collectively apply financial rigor to our operations in pursuit of our students' success. Your suggestions are welcome: go to and submit a question or idea for generating new revenue.