Memo: Actions to increase effectiveness, efficiency and student academic success



TO: Faculty and staff
FROM: Provost Mike Sherman and CFO David Cummins
RE: Actions to increase effectiveness, efficiency and student academic success

Previous communications have suggested several options under consideration to close the $26.7 million budget gap projected for FY-2014. Because the State of Ohio requires a balanced budget be presented to our Board of Trustees in June, we must act with urgency. This memorandum is an update on strategies we are pursuing to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency in our operations, and—most importantly—to ensure student academic success.

As a reminder, the budget shortfall is largely the result of realities we and other universities face in our traditional sources of university funding: (1) reduced state and federal support, and (2) lower enrollment (enrollment = the sum of new and continuing students). Hence, we are taking the following actions:

Focus on enrollment:

  • One of the most effective ways to strengthen the budget is to increase enrollment. That is why we are welcoming the efforts of faculty and staff to reach out to qualified applicants and encourage them to pursue their college career at UA. There are many activities in the weeks ahead involving student visits to our campus. Each of us can play a vital role in growing our enrollment and providing support to our students once they are here, to make sure they are successful through graduation. We are working hard with faculty and advisers to develop more effective retention and persistence strategies.

Focus on savings and efficiencies:

  • We have met with the Deans and Vice Presidents to help them plan for reduced budgets. Budget targets for each academic and non-academic unit have been provided, along with assistance in the budget planning process. We have asked each Vice President and each Dean to consider:
      • Are there functions that can be eliminated or reduced and/or services that can be consolidated that will generate savings and have minimal impact on essential services or student success?
      • Are open positions necessary to fill? Should hiring plans be reevaluated, given a general reduction in enrollment?
      • What can be anticipated from attrition (expected retirements) and has reassignment of personnel been considered to improve productivity and efficiency?
  • We developed historical enrollment, staffing and spending trends for all colleges and departments before recommending specific budget reduction targets. Reduction targets for colleges considered these factors along with strategic priorities. The budget reduction target for the academic units averages 3.5 percent; the non-academic unit reductions average 7 percent. Deans and Vice Presidents have been asked to present one-year and two-year scenarios to achieve these budget reduction targets.
  • We are reducing by $1 million this year's allocation to the Achieving Distinction initiative and delaying the next $2 million investment slated for fiscal 2014. We will work with faculty to ensure that the interdisciplinary research so deserving of support continues to move forward.
  • Administrators and Deans are leading several initiatives designed to increase efficiency, enhance effectiveness, and boost productivity in a variety of operations throughout the campus. See a list of these initiatives, team members and some of their targeted activities.

Focus on productivity and work schedules:

  • We are launching a new program that offers eligible employees an opportunity to voluntarily reduce their work schedules. Full-time contract professionals and exempt and non-exempt staff members may request a permanent reduction in working hours and corresponding pay. Obviously, there are some positions that lend themselves to shortened work weeks or 9-month positions and there may be some employees who would prefer to spend summers with their families or have a shortened work week during the full year for personal reasons. These permanent reductions will create permanent salary savings to help support the balanced budget initiative. Details and eligibility.
  • Universities, businesses and industries across the nation are facing the consequences of the Affordable Care Act, and taking action to address anticipated health care costs. Here at UA, based on previous experiences and without any changes, we estimate the cost of providing health benefits to part-time staff and faculty would exceed $4 million. After considering guidance from the IRS and outside counsel, we decided to limit part-time staff to less than 30 hours a week, and part-time faculty to 8 credit hours per semester (which equates to less than 30 hours per week). We will remain flexible in evaluating individual teaching schedules. We do not yet know how many part-time faculty will be impacted by this decision, or the potential impact on the budget, as the academic review process continues and course schedules have yet to be finalized. Meanwhile, Deans and department chairs are reviewing anticipated course enrollments and schedules as well as full-time faculty workloads.

We will continue to keep the campus informed of initiatives to help close the budget gap. These are challenging times, but we have complete confidence in our ability to make the tough decisions without compromising the quality of education to our students and, in fact, enhancing their Akron Experience that leads to student success.