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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Annual spring budgetary processes

As the new year turns toward spring, many annual processes kick into high gear in departments and in the college. And at the campus level, academic units engage in the annual Budget/Compact process with Central. I’ve described the Compact process in past years in terms so moving it has led readers to appreciative tears of joy. At least, that’s my interpretation and I’m sticking to it. If you’d like to learn more about the results of last year’s process or how the Compact process works, please follow the link above. For now, I apologize for the length of this budget overview but do want you to have the information.

In this year’s Compact process, CLA will need to put $1.84m on the table for reallocation. On the investment side, if everything goes according to plan -- the Regents approve tuition increases at the planned-for level, reallocation targets are met, and so on -- there will be about $7.75m for academic investments across the System, but much of that will be consumed by plugging budget holes at various campuses and colleges. Thus, the message is that there is not much available for additional investment, so only emergency requests should be submitted.

As I mentioned in my financial update (which is short and worth a read, he said humbly) in my State of the College address, CLA’s budget has been basically sound in recent years, with end-of-year surpluses in fiscal years 2015 through 2018. In fiscal 2019, however, we had to draw more on our carry-forward and reserve funds than we’d prefer. We’ve been aggressive in faculty hiring and in other college and department initiatives that advance the CLA Roadmap, which I have viewed as absolutely necessary. However, we do need to be mindful to align our resources and expenses because reserves are not a well we can draw on excessively.

One of the budgetary challenges that has grown in recent years is recruitment of transfer students. CLA has been doing exceptionally well in our recruitment of first-year students, beating our first-year admission target of 2450 (as established by Central in consultation with the college) each year from fall 2015 through fall 2019. The transfer student market, on the other hand, has changed significantly. In one of the past five years, our transfer numbers exceeded the transfer target of 1900 by about 130 students. In three of those years however, our transfer numbers came in about 50 students short of the target of 1900. And this year, 2019-20, our transfer numbers will be about 250 below target. All of that has revenue implications.

The changes in the transfer market would appear to be the result of a confluence of factors. Demographic changes are reducing the number of traditional college-age students in the upper Midwest. More universities are working harder to retain their students and more universities that are struggling to recruit first-year students are increasing their efforts to recruit transfers. The economy may be encouraging some students to stop after two years of education rather than transfer for a bachelor’s degree. The University’s academic standards for admission have increased, which has arguably shrunk the eligible transfer pool.

In recognition of these shifts, Central agreed this year to increase our first-year enrollment target to 2550 for the class entering in fall 2020. Also, up until this year, about 120 students admitted to CLA were with us for one year only before moving to the School of Nursing. Now, those students will be directly admitted into the School of Nursing, but CLA is retaining the 120 slots for admitting CLA students. Both of those factors should help on the revenue side, along with some other changes on the horizon (e.g., changes in the first-year writing advanced placement waiver policy, which was an appropriate move on substantive grounds, will result in more students across the University taking First-Year Writing).

In the fall, I tasked five small workgroups in CLA administration to examine areas where we might generate revenue and reduce costs, establishing a target of $3.5m across the groups in savings and/or revenue. The groups continue their examination. During the spring, the CLA Executive Committee will hear and discuss some of the ideas from the groups. I will provide you with additional updates during the spring semester and as the Compact process continues.