February 11, 2009
To the Campus Community:
The current economic turndown is presenting challenges for our nation, commonwealth and university. Our institution is dealing with these challenges head on, and there is good reason to be enthusiastic and hopeful about our future.
Cost saving measures
In my December 3 message to the campus community, I shared Governor Rendell’s request of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to return $22 million of state funding. The one-time payback was instituted to help address the commonwealth’s anticipated budget shortfall of more than $2 billion for 2008-09. As a result, KU will return $1.85 million from our current budget.
The first priority of PASSHE and Kutztown University when considering any cost saving measures is to ensure our students continue to receive the high-quality education they expect and deserve. As a result, we were able to accommodate the payback by using our reserves and delaying some planned expenditures.
On December 19, PASSHE directed 128 management positions in the system remain vacant and froze the salaries of non-union employees through the end of the budget year. At KU, 14 vacant positions will not be filled in the immediate future, including the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, the associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the senior director of Facilities Operations, and several other positions in the facilities area. However, we will retain the ability to fill critical vacancies, such as employing additional faculty in order to meet student needs in the classroom.
I am happy to report we do not anticipate any personnel cuts or layoffs for the 2008-09 academic year. We also should be encouraged by Governor Rendell’s recent budget proposal for 2009-10, which calls for maintaining current funding levels for PASSHE universities. PASSHE would receive a total of $519.2 million in state funding in 2009-10 to support its basic operations and a variety of special projects, as well as $130 million in capital funding.
Our access mission
The cost of tuition, room and board, and other fees are more of a worry than usual given the current economy. We can all take comfort in the fact that each of the last four years, PASSHE has held tuition increases below the inflation rate – averaging 2.9 percent. Annual tuition increases typically have been anywhere from one-half to one-third the national average at other four-year public colleges and universities. I feel comfortable that the leaders at PASSHE will make a concentrated effort to make our system’s education as affordable as possible.
To help students and their families, we have always relied on scholarships and financial aid. In spite of today’s economic environment, KU’s private giving is on target to fulfill all annual scholarship obligations this year. In addition, Governor Rendell’s financial aid proposal announced last week is a clear indication of his commitment to providing affordable higher education opportunities for the students of Pennsylvania. If approved, the governor’s proposal will eventually provide more than $500 million in financial aid for students of the commonwealth to attend PASSHE institutions and community colleges.
New construction projects
While we are restricted in a number of areas, there are projects and initiatives we can move forward for the long- and short-term benefit of the university.
As an example, the demolition of the old heat plant (adjacent to the football stadium) and associated grounds and garage buildings will allow us to reclaim some prime green space for South Campus. It also will allow us to finalize moving our industrial operations to the campus periphery. To permit this demolition and move, the project includes renovations to the existing maintenance building and the addition of a very basic pre-engineered steel building for the relocated grounds and garage shops.
In addition, we expect to receive funding in the near future to begin work on the renovation of, and addition to, Schaeffer Auditorium. Both projects were approved and funded by the commonwealth before the economic decline. We are proceeding, as well, with the renovation of Beck Residence Hall, the first floor of which will be converted to the new Student Health Center. This project is fully funded by student health fee monies set aside over several years specifically for this purpose.
Other ongoing construction projects will provide far-reaching financial savings. For example, there is a Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) contract in place that is fully funded. It covers 15 different energy conservation measures which will provide a positive financial impact and move KU toward a more environmentally friendly campus.
Along these lines, you may recall our request to the campus community in December to help identify ways we can trim spending and maximize resources. We received many good ideas before the January 30th deadline. We are currently researching the ideas and assigning cost savings associated with them. We hope to implement some of these ideas as a part of the overall budget strategy.
I hope this overview gives you a better perspective of the current state of the university fiscal picture. As you can see, many proactive initiatives are being taken at the state and local level to secure the future of our entire KU family. We need to pull together to overcome these challenges, just as we have with other challenges in the past. I will keep you posted as we progress in these difficult times. I certainly would appreciate you sharing your ideas, suggestions and concerns.
F. Javier Cevallos