Fiscal update from Chancellor Cantor
Fiscal update from Chancellor CantorJanuary 07, 2009SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Dear SU Campus Community Members,
As we begin a new year and continue to watch the global financial crisis unfold, I want to write briefly to give some closure to the administrative cost-cutting that we have been engaged in since my last communications in October and November. Although we all had hoped that the volatility of the financial environment would have settled by now, this seems not to be the case, so I write now in anticipation of a continuing process of vigilance and more austerity measures likely to come.
We remain focused on our critical academic priorities-enrolling a terrific class of enterprising students with the financial support that they and their families need, searching for new faculty, and continuing to collaborate with communities of experts to address the pressing issues of our time, at home, around the nation, and indeed, the world. We have made significant strides in all of these realms, and we must do all we can to focus sharply on sustaining our positive trajectory.
Keeping a strong eye on continuing our academic momentum, our initial cost cutting has been in administrative and support units. This process, which included significant reductions in operating budgets, immediately reduced costs and enabled us to create new administrative efficiencies, including trimming 71 vacant positions. This combined effort resulted in $8 million of savings this year, increasing to $11 million next year.
Regretfully, to achieve these full savings we have eliminated some positions that are currently filled, resulting in 48 layoffs. All of these employees have been contacted, and we are providing them support. I am deeply sorry for the painful impact on these members of the SU community and their families.
In keeping with our commitment to be a good employer, we have designed a separation package that includes continuation of health and other benefits for 12 months, a lump-sum payment aligned with years of service equaling up to a maximum of six months of salary, remitted tuition benefits for up to 12 months, and coverage of employee-dependent tuition at SU for those with children already enrolled or admitted for next year. In addition, the Office of Human Resources is doing much to assist these employees. Every employee will be offered comprehensive job placement training and services and assigned a career coach to support them moving forward. If internal job opportunities arise, the career coach will assist and advise laid off employees who may be eligible for another University position.
In this process, we partnered with SEIU President Jerry Dennis to assist those who are SEIU employees. We worked with SEIU to discuss bargaining unit position eliminations and the development of a separation package and agreements on extended recall rights and job placement assistance. This collaboration worked extremely well, and we appreciate Jerry and his colleagues’ assistance in such a difficult time.
In the coming months, our focus is on the critically important work of enrolling our classes for the next academic year, and making decisions about tuition and financial aid, and staff and faculty salaries. Fortunately, our application pool remains very strong, increasing to a record high of 22,000 applicants last year, and we are on target for another strong year. However, to enroll the quality and number of students that we desire, we know that our institutional financial aid budget, already at $155 million, must increase to offset some of the financial stress on families and make it possible for admitted students to attend. While this will put new strains on our budget, we must concentrate more institutional aid on relieving students’ debt burden, especially for lower income students with heavy debt, and on increasing our aid to middle-income students.
Syracuse has always been a place of opportunity, and we intend to maintain this tradition. This is true for both current and prospective students. We have already granted 1,300 financial aid appeals from current students this academic year-200 more than we granted all of last year. And we are sure to get more appeals in the weeks ahead. To begin to meet that demand, last month we launched the “Syracuse Responds” program. To date, the response has been wonderful, with trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends generously stepping forward to help and share this as a priority.
Another key priority is maintaining momentum in the excellence of our faculty, and to do this we need to keep enriching our ranks by recruiting new faculty to Syracuse. As we continue to work with deans on the budgets for our schools and colleges in the coming months, we expect that the deans and the faculty will stand strongly behind this priority, which may mean making some operational budget cuts and prioritizing the various searches in each school and college. Many private institutions are freezing faculty searches and stopping capital projects as they consider the losses in endowment income to their budgets. We have encountered a decrease in the market value of our endowment (approximately $260 million in the past six months), which will lower the payout from our endowment next year and come on top of the increased financial aid costs we face. But we believe that we can maintain some of our faculty searches and move forward on planned borrowing for a few critical academic capital projects underway. Budgets will be very tight, but we expect the schools and colleges to set priorities and make judicious decisions, just as the central administrative units have done thus far and will continue to do. Continuing to invest in our future, even in these down times, is essential to maintain and extend our quality and impact.
In the next two months, we will be working with the Senate Budget Committee, the RCM Committee, the deans, and the trustees to make the key decisions that form the basis for the fiscal year 2009-10 budget. These decisions will include lowering the rate of tuition increase from recent years, reducing the endowment payout, and possibly broadening the salary freeze already in place for my cabinet, the deans and me. We will know more in the coming weeks about financial aid needs and the endowment, and have a better sense of what budget measures are needed in the schools and colleges, and if necessary again in the administrative and support units. Although we face tough economic times, we must work together to maintain the key momentum we have in attracting outstanding, talented students from all economic backgrounds; recruiting world-class faculty; and leveraging opportunities for our students and faculty to engage the world and make a difference.
The good news is that we are truly in as strong a position as ever-well aligned with what the world needs. This is evidenced by the many collaborations with corporations like JPMorgan Chase, Welch Allyn, and IBM, and foundations like Kauffman, Mellon, and Say Yes to Education, all of which will allow faculty and students to continue to engage in the Syracuse community and beyond. The world is excited about Syracuse, and we are, too.
As you know, both the Carnegie and Hendricks Foundations recently made awards to the University to ensure the continued momentum of Scholarship in Action. With this in mind, we were able to put out a call to deans to create interdisciplinary projects with high impact that engage students and faculty from multiple schools. We received more than 70 proposals spanning every school and college-far more than these awards can support. But that is actually good news. To paraphrase one of my mentors, Harold Shapiro, President Emeritus of Princeton, great universities should always have more good ideas than the resources to fund them. Our task in the coming months is to make sure that we can fund enough of all the many exciting intellectual ventures of our students, staff, and faculty to keep attracting them to Syracuse, and we intend to do just that.