Enrollment and Budget Campus Update June 18, 2014

Overview, Specific Cuts and Investments

I want you to know that these were difficult decisions. After several years of budget cuts the options available to us were few and the choices even more difficult than in the past. I don’t take them lightly. I realize that reduction or elimination of a “position” or an “FTE” in a budget really means that a person, one of our colleagues, is affected in a significant way.

As I said in the May 21 town hall meeting and summarized here, we were unable to provide details of specific cuts until we had talked with all of the individuals directly affected. Those conversations concluded just prior to the June 12 Board of Trustees meeting at which these additional budget details were first shared more widely.

As you review the specifics (see the link below), be aware that while all divisions experienced cuts of some kind, we made an institutional decision to reduce the initially proposed cuts to Academics by one third and make investments in areas related to recruitment, retention, and fundraising.

We made decisions on the basis of some general themes:

  • Protect direct instruction to the greatest degree possible;
  • Make personnel cuts in vacant positions and with staff turnover where possible and appropriate;
  • Minimize and/or acknowledge impacts that cuts in one department or division will have on another; and
  • To the extent possible, preserve and/or invest in activities that will boost recruitment and retention (and ultimately help stabilize our revenue streams and budget).

While all divisions support the college as a whole, each division stewards a different part of the organization and the nature of the positions and the work in each division is different, so these general principles played out differently in each division.

Academics

First, the Vice Presidents and I decided to reduce the Academics share of the cut by approximately one-third because we recognized that not doing so would dramatically impair our ability to continue to deliver high quality academic programs and experiences to students.

Second, we felt it imperative to maintain our student/faculty ratio—both in general, at around 25 to 1, and in core and lower division programs (at 18 to 1 and 20 to 1 respectively). That left us with some extraordinarily difficult choices without enough non-personnel cuts possible and not enough vacancies to make the remainder of the budget cut. We tried hard to protect direct instruction to the extent possible, and we thought carefully about how to take the necessary steps in ways that could be undone as our enrollment recovery plans yield positive dividends.

Finance and Administration

For the Finance and Administration Division, we were able to make the necessary cuts to personnel by eliminating vacant positions. We also looked for efficiencies through reorganization or realignment of responsibilities within units; and listened to some creative ideas for identifying savings (i.e. renegotiating maintenance contracts).

Student Affairs

In the past, we were able offset some cuts in Student Affairs by relying on revenues in auxiliary departments. That option was unavailable this time, as those accounts are also negatively affected by enrollment downturns. Three-fourths of the reductions came from two vacant positions and a planned new position, and the final 25% from Goods & Services. Our primary goal was to preserve core services, and we did this by modifying or foregoing planned investments in areas of need.

Advancement

The amount of cut apportioned to Advancement’s base budget is $65,000. However the situation in this area is more complex than just the gap that would result from our enrollment challenges.

Four years ago The Evergreen State College Foundation received a capacity-building grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that allowed the Advancement Division to begin full implementation of its 12-year business plan to grow the fundraising and alumni areas of its program. That plan imagined significant expansion of our alumni relationships and a substantial increase in the level of fundraising for the institution. The grant has provided about $380,000 per year, primarily to fund staff. With that investment, Advancement has been able to keep pace with the business plan and more than double our fundraising success over these past few years. The return on investment for that $380,000 per year has been more than $4 for every dollar spent. The intent of the grant was to show that we could increase our fundraising for a modest investment and that success would lead to a permanent investment by the institution.

The approaching expiration of the Gates grant, together with budget cuts and current gaps in Advancement’s base budget, would have required the division to cut nearly $550,000 from a $2.3 million divisional budget next year (a budget that also funds Marketing, Communications and College Relations, including web team, publications, media and community relations, and marketing).

In considering how to address the current challenges, the Vice Presidents and I made a decision to make a permanent additional investment in our advancement work. The detailed budget document you will see includes a $260,000 addition to the Advancement base budget. That obviously won’t backfill the entire gap ($550,000). To support this decision, Advancement staff reviewed carefully where they had been most successful and where cuts would have the least impact. With the retirement next year of the Vice President for Advancement and the return of the Associate VP, we concluded that it makes the most sense to implement a succession plan that will allow us to not refill the Associate VP position next year. In addition, the division has taken advantage of vacancies by reorganizing existing positions and will not fill at least one vacancy currently being paid through the Gates grant.

Our business plan for Advancement had always included holding salary captures in reserve to extend the work begun through the Gates grant for an additional year before the College would need to step in. We have done that. We will now look carefully at any vacancies that occur in the next year and think about what will make the most sense long-term and how the division can best be organized if enrollment recovery plans don’t restore base funding as quickly as we might hope. Further, the $65,000 cut I noted at the beginning, while listed as a 1 FTE reduction/full layoff in the budget document, is still being defined. While Advancement will reduce its base budget immediately, the staffing cut would be at least one year out.

President’s Office

Staff reductions will be necessary to accomplish the budget cut in the President’s office. Given the size of the President’s office and the nature of the positions, such reductions inevitably have spillover effects on other divisions, requiring some interdivisional restructuring. Pending retirements are the best opportunity to accomplish these changes in a thoughtful fashion. Two staff members (Executive Director of Operational Planning and Budget and Special Assistant for Diversity Affairs) are currently making plans to retire within the 2015-17 biennium. Both positions are held by long-time staff who carry portfolios that reflect their long tenures—portfolios that will certainly need to be restructured at their retirement. Budget savings will be realized through that restructuring, but the exact nature of those savings needs to await interdivisional discussions and the arrival of the new president.

Specific Cuts and Investments

You can see the specific cuts and investments spelled out in this document (provided to the Board of Trustees last week). The key information is on Page 3, Attachment A, items I, II and III and in Attachment B. Part I summarizes cuts in state funding. Part II summarizes investments largely related to recruitment, retention and fundraising. Part III indicates the proportions of budget cuts accounted for from various funds and changes. Regarding positions, this area notes a reduction of 16.24 faculty lines (affecting 32 people) and reduction of about 15 full-time-equivalent staff (affecting 30 positions, of which about 5.5 FTE or 14 positions are affected by full or partial layoff—the remainder are attributable to positions currently vacant and positions in which retirements or voluntary separations are anticipated).

Attachment B provides specific cuts in each division.

All of the individuals directly affected have been informed. The exact timing of impacts to particular positions is determined in part by contract and legal requirements and specific circumstances within individual divisions. Details and timelines will be spelled out for impacted individuals as soon as possible.

These cuts and investments were presented to the Board of Trustees at their June 12 meeting. The Board will vote on this budget at its July 9-10, 2014 meeting.

Your Contributions to Enrollment and Student Success

As I have said before, we are working on a range of initiatives to bolster recruitment, retention and fundraising. Whether or not you are personally involved in one of these initiatives, you contribute value in your daily work that helps to create and sustain a welcoming and supportive learning community for students. Those actions, large and small, form the overall student experience and that experience is the critical driver of recruitment, retention, and student success. Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,
Les Purce