KU President's Update
October 2, 2013
Dear KU Campus Community,
Greetings! In the spirit of past tradition, I have a few important items I would like to share with you as we head into the second full month of the fall semester.
The struggles many of our sister institutions have experienced in recent months have garnered media headlines all over the commonwealth. We have received our own inquiries regarding our ongoing budget challenges and plans for the future.
On Friday, we shared with APSCUF leadership that we will not be issuing any new retrenchment letters this year. This does not mean that our financial situation is resolved. For the 2013-14 year, we used a combination of base budget cuts and one time funds to address the deficit. Current estimates project a $10.3 million deficit for 2014-15, which will be addressed through a combination of base budget cuts and one-time funds. We will continue to review all aspects of our university in the coming months to formulate a balanced budget for next year in light of these continuing serious fiscal challenges.
As I have stated before, recruitment and retention clearly need to improve and will have the biggest impact on our budget going forward. While we have cut back resources in several areas, we still have increasing costs that are not being met by our funding resources.
As an example, since the fall semester of 2010, we have eliminated more than 100 positions --- including both faculty and staff --- that were a part of more than $14 million in budget reductions implemented across the university. During this same period of time, however, we experienced cost increases related to inflation and other factors, including salary and benefit increases for all employee groups. These cost increases, coupled with our loss of enrollment, has led to the current financial shortfall. Addressing this shortfall (eventually through ongoing base budget changes) will be necessary to solve the current structural deficit.
We have also prioritized the importance of student recruitment and retention by investing in a new Division of Enrollment Management. This included engaging the consultant group Williams and Company for the current calendar year to give us an independent, national perspective on our enrollment issues. We also must face the reality of recovering enrollment losses of more than 1,000 students. This is the main driver behind the university's recent fiscal shortfalls.
Again, I cannot emphasize enough the need for all of us to make enrollment and retention a part of our everyday efforts. While we may not see an immediate improvement in our finances, I believe that the ultimate outcome will resolve many of our challenges.
I will continue to update you on the budget situation as new information emerges.
We have an excellent opportunity to celebrate our institution in 2015-16 when we honor our 150th anniversary.
I have already shared that Guido and Susan Pichini have agreed to serve as honorary chairs of the Sesquicentennial Celebration, while Matt Santos, director of university relations, will serve as chair of the on-campus steering committee. The steering committee will include Elsa Collins, chief of staff; Michelle Kiec, associate dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts; Alex Ogeka, director of alumni engagement; Kim Petrosky, special events coordinator; and Randy Schaeffer, associate professor of mathematics. Each of the steering committee members will oversee subcommittees focusing on topics including events, history, academics, alumni and development, and promotions.
The sesquicentennial will truly be a time for all of us to pull together and celebrate our past, present and future. Stay tuned for more details in the near future.
We are very fortunate to have a capital improvement budget that is well supported by the commonwealth. It has allowed us to improve and maintain our beautiful campus, which is a strong attraction for current and prospective students. Capital and private funding were crucial in providing the primary financial resources for the recent renovations and expansions to Schaeffer Auditorium.
September 10 was a very proud day for our university as we dedicated Schaeffer and the adjacent Sadie Snyder Hippenstiel & Elizabeth Hippenstiel Marcon Platz. The ribbon cutting ceremony, tours, reception and KU Presents! production "Botanica" by Momix were all very special. I hope you will make an event at Schaeffer a part of your calendar this year. I think you will be truly impressed.
This Saturday, we will highlight another improvement to our campus as we dedicate Golden Bear Plaza on South Campus. Located on the former site of our coal-fired heating plant and garage, the plaza has literally changed the face of the area.
The plaza features much needed outdoor lighted basketball courts, which have been tremendously popular with our students since opening last spring. We also relocated and renovated the barbeque pit that was donated by the class of '44. The pit was originally located behind Risley Hall and was used for football tailgates until the early '90s, when it fell into disrepair.
You will also notice that one of our two bronze bear statues has been placed in the center of the plaza. We moved the statue from the food court of South Dining Hall to the heart of our residence life and athletic facilities. Our Golden Bear pride is now clearly on display, and I want to extend my thanks to our Facilities team for its efforts in creating this attractive new area.
If you are able to come out to Family Day this Saturday, please join us for the plaza dedication at 11:45 a.m. If not, be sure to stroll through the area one day this fall. You will find it to be another excellent enhancement to our already beautiful campus.
Thank you for reading, and best wishes for a bright, colorful and joyful October.
F. Javier Cevallos