Growing enrollment and controlling expenses


Dear Faculty & Staff, 

As you know from my past communications, UA’s collective efforts last year resulted in remarkable financial progress that enabled us to completely eliminate our deficit in 2016-17 and drive down our projected deficit for 2017-18 by over $15 million. As we have just finished celebrating Thanksgiving, I would again like to express my appreciation for your patience and efforts.

Notwithstanding, UA continues to face the challenge of budgeted expenses outpacing revenues. As you know, we anticipated that expenses this fiscal year would exceed revenues by $29 million, absent additional cost-saving and revenue-generating measures. Our budgetary imbalance is caused, in part, because of a shrinking student body and an increasingly competitive higher education market. Other causes include rising personnel costs, persistent debt, and other ongoing commitments. We need to further contain expenditures and modify our approach to them.

We need your continuing assistance to tackle the $29 million budgetary shortfall. Without strategic adjustments, the deficit next year will expand even further. Given that we do not have the luxury of tapping into fiscal reserves to pay our bills every year, we must find ways to balance annual expenses against annual revenues.

In an effort to make progress against our current budgetary imbalance, we recently instructed each unit to adjust its budgeted expenses down to last year’s actual spending level. Also, we have implemented a host of proactive measures involving student recruitment, scholarships, and fundraising. We continue to ask everyone to increase efforts to retain students. We are striving to attract additional students through a host of innovative programs including the creation of new extracurricular and academic programs; introduction of more international opportunities for our local students; an emphasis on more evening, weekend, and online programs; an examination of our summer programming; and exploration of a 4-day core schedule that would enable experiential learning opportunities, special events, and unique opportunities on Fridays. We hope that each unit is striving to find creative and innovative approaches 

To help us secure ways in which we all can help UA save money and avoid drastic measures, we would like to enlist your assistance with respect to (i) entertainment, (ii) meetings, and (iii) university travel. This applies to everyone across the University including academics, administration, support services, and athletics.

Entertainment. Hospitality and friendliness are hallmarks of UA. We should continue to offer gracious hospitality to guests of the University. However, entertainment of guests should have an unambiguous business purpose and clearly benefit the University and its mission. Gatherings should never be extravagant. Please also note that entertainment expenses that are primarily directed at UA colleagues and employees should be avoided. 

Meetings. Cost-avoidance strategies should be employed in holding off-site meetings, retreats, or training for staff, faculty, contract professionals, and even students. Whenever possible, on-campus facilities and services should be used. Off-site meetings where expenses will be incurred (including team dinners or training) must be pre-approved by the unit head.

University travel.  Please use the following guidelines for in-state and out-of-state trips.

  • All University-reimbursed travel should have an unambiguous business purpose and should clearly benefit the University and its mission. In cases where multiple UA employees make the same trip, the business purpose and necessity of multiple travelers should be absolutely clear. In every event, travel as economically as possible, while still considering the efficient use of your time. Common sense and good judgment should prevail in planning travel.
  • Pre-approval.  Pre-approval has always been a pre-requisite for travel on University business, whether or not the travel is paid for by UA (e.g. conference attendance might be paid by the conference organizer for an invited speaker, but you still need pre-authorization to go on the trip).  It is important that there be a record of where faculty, contract professionals, and staff are in case of emergencies, accidents, etc. Also, we would like to emphasize local control over decisions on travel. Department chairs, school directors, and unit heads are in the best position to assess the necessity of travel, and also to manage the unit’s travel budget. At the same time, we would like to minimize the need for travel pre-authorization forms, and post-travel reimbursement forms, to the extent possible. We will investigate other methods to document professional travel.
  • University P-cards and travel expenses. Use of a UA purchasing card (P-card) for travel helps the University as we can realize rebates from purchases using the card. Also, we are investigating ways to eliminate the need to scan and upload receipts for P-card purchases, thus saving time and effort on behalf of faculty and staff.  
  • Car rental.  UA has very favorable contracts with Enterprise and National Car Rental.  Prices are about $35 per day (insurance is automatically included) by reserving a car through our special website. Unless you can find a more affordable option, we request that you use this option when you are traveling.
    • For in-state travel, you can save the University money if your round-trip exceeds 100 miles. For example, if you are traveling to Columbus, it is more cost effective to use a rental car and buy gas than to drive a personal vehicle and charge UA for mileage. Enterprise will even deliver a car to your office.
    • For trips exceeding 100 miles, we would ask you to use one of our car rental contracts above or limit your personal automobile reimbursement request to $50.00.  
  • Air travel.  Use teleconferencing and video-conferencing whenever possible to minimize the need for air travel. When there is a clear need for air travel, you should:
    • Make economy flight arrangements at least two weeks in advance to lock in favorable rates. (In general, booking airfare at least two weeks in advance can save approximately thirty percent of the fare compared to trips booked one week in advance and roughly sixty percent compared to trips booked for next day travel.)
    • Explore ways to minimize airline fees for baggage and other amenities.
    • UA has parking discounts at Cleveland Hopkins airport at Park Place. Travelers can also use their own AAA or AARP discounts, which may be even more cost effective. We will pursue opportunities for other corporate discounts on a going-forward basis and make these known.
  • Your choice of hotel accommodations should reflect a sense of stewardship of the University’s resources.
    • Using Priceline and other discount services to minimize hotel costs.
    • If possible, staying with family or friends while on the road is appreciated.
    • Maximizing your time while minimizing the number of overnight stays is desirable.
  • We will continue to look at the appropriate reimbursement for meals while traveling. I personally invite you to follow my example by looking for affordable hotels that provide complimentary breakfast. Also, while traveling on UA business, the senior administrative team will limit its reimbursement to $10 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, and $20 for dinner. We invite others to do the same.    
Our goal is to reduce our annual deficit budgeting and continue austerity measures in future fiscal years until the deficit is eliminated and our reserves have returned to healthy levels.  As we continue to make progress, we appreciate your cooperation and assistance to help us reach our goals.


President's signatureMatthew J. Wilson
The University of Akron