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Friday, September 10, 2021

Balanced budget and enrollment update

It’s been wonderful to see the campus active and energized during this first week of the semester. Throughout the summer, concerns were raised about various aspects of the return to campus and the return to classrooms. Raising these concerns helped us highlight issues to bring to the attention of offices in central and generated the sharing of ideas across CLA on how units were handling particular challenges. Many thanks to everyone — and there are many in departments, in shared governance bodies, and across college offices — who have worked so hard to get us to this point. I’d like to offer a special note of appreciation for the work of Anika Carlsted, CLA Assistant Director of Facilities and Capital Planning, for her absolutely tireless efforts this summer working across the college, communicating with department leaders, and conveying to offices what was needed to ensure buildings and classrooms were safe for the fall.

We are back to the campus, but not back to the campus of 2019. Our experience during the pandemic demonstrated ways in which the Future of Work was going to differ from the workplace as it was. Most notably, that difference has shown up in more provision for work schedules that are partly on campus and partly remote. It has been interesting to observe that change in action as well this week. These changes may have been kickstarted by the pandemic, but they are more truly a new way of work that will continue to evolve. 

Over the course of the past year, I wrote to you frequently regarding the University and college’s budget and fiscal status, as well as undergraduate enrollment. In June, I shared with you the outcome of the annual Compact process. Since then, we have completed fiscal year 2021 so I will add that the overall college budget came in balanced for the year. This was an important outcome that resulted from all the steps taken by faculty, staff, departments, and college offices last year.

Regarding enrollment, while we don’t yet have the final official numbers, we had good outcomes on recruitment. We will land several hundred students higher than our target on freshman recruitment, which is offset somewhat by the not unexpected shortfalls on transfer recruitment. I’ll provide more information on the composition of the incoming class once we have the official numbers, but tentatively we are seeing solid increases in the percentage of BIPOC, first-generation, and CLA first-choice students.

These collective results leave us at about 13,030 undergraduate students. That number is about 700 students short of where we were in fall 2019, which of course has revenue and budgetary implications that we need to manage. The glass half full here, however, is that you may recall that in spring 2021 we were about 1000 students smaller than in spring 2019. On the graduate student side, we are around 200 students lower in fall 2021 than fall 2019, which is not surprising given the grad admissions pause last year, tapping the brakes on admitting from the waiting list in spring 2020 when the pandemic hit and created great uncertainty, and programs reducing cohorts to provide better levels of per student support and to align with disciplinary job markets. 

While the University was in work from home mode, the renovation of Pillsbury Hall continued and the building is now open. I invite you to join us for an open house on Friday, September 17 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. in the new home of the Department of English and the Liberal Arts Engagement Hub. Stop in for tours, readings, presentations by faculty and students, and explore what this redesigned space has to offer to the University community.