“Inside FAU” – June 2009
From President Frank T. Brogan
Hello again, colleagues, students and friends. I'm coming to you today for another look inside FAU to give you the most recent information available on the budget crisis that we're facing. We're all painfully aware of the fact that we're in the midst of the most serious funding crisis in the University's history, and I want you to know we are presenting a plan to the Board of Trustees that does three important things: It accounts for the significant budget reductions we must absorb; It creates a framework for next year’s budget; And finally, it lays a sound foundation for the years ahead.
In may we got a glimmer of good news when the 2009 session of the Florida Legislature approved a budget that reduced our funding for the coming fiscal year by just under 17 million dollars instead of the 38 million dollars we feared in the worst case scenario. Keep in mind, however, that this comes on the heels of nearly 20 million dollars in reductions we’ve already absorbed in the last 18 months; as you can see from these numbers, we still face the necessity of reducing expenses dramatically.
From a personnel perspective, this has led to the elimination of more than 140 unfilled positions and, along with it, the inevitable reduction of services to students, faculty and staff.
Certainly cutting unfilled positions creates a hardship on the entire institution, but, as you may know, for months now the University community has been wrestling with the even more difficult issue of how many filled positions might have to be eliminated to address the financial shortfall.
Today, that number appears to be much smaller than first feared, but it is nonetheless significant since each position represents a member of the FAU family. Our budget reduction plan calls for the elimination of approximately 30 currently filled positions.
Please know that while this process will be difficult for each of the affected employees, we have already met with them and have committed to provide one-on-one support and counseling to help each of them during this difficult period of transition.
While a majority of these positions are in the administration and staff categories, it should be noted that except for five faculty positions in the College of Engineering and Computer Science that are being eliminated as a result of a recent college-wide reorganization, no additional faculty members are slated for layoff. That means we’ll be able to continue to offer a robust menu of courses, which is important to our students’ progress toward graduation.
On the programmatic side, our college leadership teams have been working closely with faculty and staff during the last six months to evaluate the continued viability of every degree program and track. At the end of this exercise, we identified approximately 45 majors that do not meet the minimum standard of viability and have been proposed for phase-out. Of course, students currently enrolled in these majors will be allowed to complete their studies during the phase-out period.
We’ve also identified opportunities for greater use of technology, through online and distance learning, to allow us to continue to offer certain programs while achieving the efficiency needed to meet our overall budget reduction.
In addition to looking at how budget cuts affect personnel and programs, we’re also working to create a more efficient and effective delivery system for support services across all campuses. Every day our students and employees rely on services such as admissions, registration, financial aid, human resources, purchasing and more. We’re looking at opportunities to achieve greater efficiency by varying the approach we take with support personnel and utilizing technology to offer comparable access to services.
There can be no doubt that it’s always painful to have to make decisions like these, but we all know that continuing to operate the University under its current economic structure is simply unsustainable.
You can read more about the budget reduction plan by clicking on the Budget Q&A link on the FAU homepage.
As we work with the Board of Trustees to plan for next year and the years beyond, we’ll be utilizing a multi-year budget planning approach for the first time. This will provide some degree of predictability for the entire University community – students, faculty and staff.
To get an overview of all budget components, let’s begin with a discussion about revenue. As you may know, the University’s overall budget is over 500 million dollars. That’s made up of funds from many sources, including the state of Florida, the federal government and tuition and fees from students. We’ve already talked about the status of our state support for next year, so now I want to focus on tuition and fees.
For the coming year, the state has increased base tuition by 8 percent. In addition, each state university is now allowed to levy an additional 7 percent differential tuition on top of that, which means in-state undergraduate tuition could go up by 15 percent.
At FAU, our original intent was to propose an increase in tuition of 13 percent, based on the economic circumstances of so many of our students. After further consideration, however, we’ve decided to recommend the full 15 percent, with the additional 2 percent being dedicated totally to need-based financial aid. This is due in part to the fact that the legislature chose not to fund the tuition increases in the Bright Futures scholarship program for the coming fiscal year.
The differential tuition will generate an around 900,000 dollars next year, and will enable us to increase our funding of need-based student financial aid by nearly a half-million dollars. In the budget proposal that’s posted online, you can see a projection of what a typical student might pay while attending FAU during the next four years.
In addition to looking at tuition, we're introducing a new approach for our local fees, which are also designed to deliver benefits directly to students. These fees include the activities and service fee, the athletics fee, the health fee, the technology fee and the transportation access fee.
In the past, significant increases in individual fees have been proposed on a rotating basis every two to three years. For example, the health fee might go up one year while the activities and service fee would increase the next, and so on.
This year, we’re proposing a new approach that would incrementally raise all fees by smaller amounts each year over the course of the next several years. This will allow the University, with guidance from students, to plan more strategically how fee revenue will be invested to better serve the students. At the same time, it will spread the increase over several years rather than levying larger increases all at once, making the financial impact on students more manageable on a year-to-year basis.
As required, fee committees made up of a majority of students plus faculty and staff were convened in order to determine the size of each fee increase and propose plans for their expenditure. You can read more about the work of these committees in the online budget proposal.
Taken together, these increases in tuition and fees would raise the amount that the typical full-time student at FAU would pay by about $500 next year. While that’s not an insignificant amount, I remind you that there will be additional need-based financial aid available, including Pell Grants, which are slated to go up by $600 in 2009-10.
At the end of the day, it’s not just about budget reductions and proposals, but the very future of our University. With that imperative in mind, the University is launching an initiative called Project Vision, and I hope you'll be part of it. Over the next eight months, Project Vision will provide an opportunity for you to help shape the future of Florida Atlantic University. This initiative is designed to engage the whole University community, as you’ll see when the website is launched. The Project Vision website will give everyone who cares about FAU an opportunity to submit their ideas about how our University should look in the 21st century, from the way we’re organized to the classes we offer to the way we engage the outside community. Your ideas are needed and are most vital to the success of this endeavor. You'll soon receive more information about this exciting collaborative project.
I'd like to close by thanking each and every person who's viewing this video for their support of Florida Atlantic University. We've seen some tough economic times, and more of the same almost certainly lies ahead, but I promise you one thing: FAU will continue to evolve during this crisis – not simply survive -- and will go on to be an even greater institution in the years ahead.
There can be no doubt that this is a challenging period in the history of our University and our country, but it's also a time when people of vision have the opportunity to step up and make a real difference. We're going to seize that opportunity and build the new FAU together. Thank you all so very much.