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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Financial update from State of the College address

(Excerpt from the State of the College address, September 10, 2019)

Advancing on our new and continuing priorities is dependent on resources, so I’d like to give you a quick overview of where we finished the fiscal year and what we’re looking at in the year to come.

As I discussed in my August monthly memo sent to all faculty and staff, while in recent years CLA has balanced its budget, the recently-completed fiscal year 2019 required us to draw more on our carry-forward and reserve funds than we’d prefer to do. Although we have been prepared to do that in order to invest in strategic priorities in hiring and other areas, carry-forward funds are a well we can’t draw water from too frequently or extensively before it goes dry.

As I mentioned in my memo, various factors were at play last year. Most notably, final tuition revenue did not see the surpluses of previous years. With tuition providing about three-quarters of our revenue, we are highly tuition-dependent. In fact, we are more tuition-dependent than many private liberal arts colleges. Thus it is absolutely critical that we are focusing our instructional resources in areas of greater student interest and demand. Doing so will be absolutely critical as we move into our new sabbatical system. We don’t have the budget to spend resources on courses that are not attracting students.

Our summer revenue also continued to drop. Some, though too few, of our departments did improve their numbers and benefited from our summer tuition sharing initiative. As a college, we need a strong summer surplus to balance our fall and spring spending. Summer is not a luxury for us, but rather is essential to our financial well-being.

During the fall and across the coming year, you’ll be hearing more from me on these fiscal topics as we’ll need to identify ways we can operate more efficiently and effectively to ensure our revenues and budgeted expenses are aligned. That means looking at both the spending and revenue sides of the equation. Doing so will be critical to moving forward on the initiatives I mentioned earlier, ongoing issues like implementation of fully-funded sabbaticals, and our recurring goals such as improved graduate funding and faculty and staff compensation.