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Message from President Albrecht

Monday, Jun. 20, 2011

Dear USU Faculty and Staff,

During our budget presentations following the 2011 legislative session, I promised a response to the university community outlining the actions we will take to address the additional cuts imposed during that session. I will use this communication to review both short- and longer-term strategies that will be implemented to address those cuts.

As you will recall, the total reduction in our budget imposed by the Legislature was approximately $4 million dollars. While this number is more modest than cuts taken over the last three years, it has created significant challenges for us. Less difficult choices were identified and eliminated long ago and each additional cut has taken us closer to operations that reflect our core missions as an institution. As a consequence, we have been compelled to employ a slightly different strategy for this round of cuts, including the consideration of organization changes in order to reduce the impact on those core missions. As in the past, we have worked hard to minimize impacts on our human resource base. While it is nearly impossible to predict with accuracy the total effects of the proposed cuts on our university workforce, most of the personnel-related reductions recommended by the academic and administrative units propose foregoing recruitment to vacant positions. As a consequence, the overall reduction in workforce will be kept to a minimum.

As we described in our meetings this spring, we have covered about $1 million of the $4 million reduction from central funds. This commitment will address the cut to our health care coverage mandated by the legislature in Senate Bill 6. USU’s Budget Reduction Committee was then charged to identify actions to address the remaining $3 million. That committee, as in the past, has been co-chaired by Provost Coward and Vice President Cowley, and has included representation from the deans, the faculty senate, and our staff employee groups.

Over the past several weeks, this committee has prepared a set of recommendations that were presented to me in draft form last week. The committee reached its recommendations only after holding a large number of meetings with various constituent groups across the Logan campus and with representatives of our regional campus and distance education programs. None of the recommendations were advanced without discussion and vetting with the deans, vice presidents, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the Budget and Faculty Welfare Committee, and other impacted groups. These recommendations included both immediate cuts (i.e., those that could be enacted by July 1, 2011), and cuts that will require additional review. Proposals in the second group could be implemented as recommended; on the other hand, they may be implemented in a different form, or not at all, following appropriate review and vetting with faculty, professional and classified employee leadership and, where required, by Trustees and Regents.

In what follows, I will outline consensus recommendations that we will implement immediately. These reductions will be reflected in our Fiscal Year 2012 budgets that take effect July 1 and will represent immediate savings. These actions will cover approximately two-thirds of the amount required by the budget cuts:

  • Each academic college will return a total of $15,000 from retirements or terminations that occur in Fiscal Year 2012. The remaining salaries from these positions will be retained within the colleges.
  • E&G funding for the Computer Information Literacy Program will be eliminated for a cost savings of $80,000.
  • The Department of Computer Science will be moved from the College of Science to the College of Engineering and the current search for a lecturer in that department will be discontinued. The cost savings will be $100,000.
  • The seed grant funding program of the Office of International Education will be discontinued, saving $100,000.
  • The administrative structure within the Office of Student Services will be reorganized with some positions eliminated or downsized. Cost savings will be $50,000.
  • An open staff position in the Office of the Vice President for Research and an open administrative position in the Office of the Vice President for Business and Finance will be eliminated. Total cost savings will be $220,000.
  • E&G funding to the Office of the Vice President for Commercialization and Regional Development will be reduced by $100,000.

In addition, other proportionately-based cuts will be taken by USU entities that receive appropriated funds. These include:

  • The academic colleges on the Logan campus and the School of Graduate Studies will implement cuts totaling $347,330 from their collective budgets. This represents a pro rata share to the colleges of the amount remaining after other cuts are taken.
  • The USU Eastern campuses (Price and San Juan) will implement cuts totaling $303,339 from their collective budgets.
  • The regional campuses (Uintah Basin, Southeast, Brigham City and Tooele) will implement cuts totaling $170,100 from their collective budgets.
  • The Utah Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service will implement cuts totaling $461,300 from their collective budgets.
  • The Utah Water Lab will implement cuts totaling $33,100.

The second set of recommendations from the Budget Reduction Committee represent actions that would take longer to realize full savings because they must undergo a review and consultation process that involves the Faculty Senate, Professional and Classified Employee groups, Trustees and, in some instances, the Board of Regents. I underscore that the review process could also move us in a quite different direction than initially recommended by the committee. No final decisions will be made in these cases until processes described in our policy manuals have been followed.

These longer-term recommendations could result in actions affecting one or more of the following entities:

  • Utah State University Press.
  • The College of Natural Resources.
  • The university subsidy to short-term disability insurance. (I note this proposal would effect a very modest—less than $70 per year—subsidy for a voluntary coverage component of our employee benefit package).
  • USU office space in the Wells Fargo Building in Salt Lake City.

It is important to note that the strategy I am outlining here will, of necessity, require us to use some one-time funds to address a portion of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget cut until final decisions are made on this set of recommendations from the Budget Reduction Committee. Depending on the outcome of the review process, it could require that we “go back to the drawing board” to find additional ways to address some of the reductions.

Finally, the committee recommended, and I concur with its recommendation, that we initiate review of several other actions that may result in longer-term cost savings to the university. These include:

  • The exploration of out-sourcing opportunities of a variety of selected services.
  • The exploration of the possibility of centralizing selected business functions (e.g., budget, travel, and payroll) at the college and/or central administrative levels.
  • A review of graduate programs to identify low-enrollment and/or lower quality programs for possible elimination.
  • A review of undergraduate majors to identify low-enrollment and/or lower quality programs to reduce the number of majors.

I intend to appoint groups to begin these reviews sometime in the next few weeks.

I offer my thanks to the committee, to our deans and vice presidents, to Faculty Senate leadership, and to those many others who have assisted with the review. We have gone through a challenging time, yet have been able, I believe, to protect the core missions of our university and to maintain our momentum in becoming a university of increasing quality. The post-legislative session revenue numbers continue their positive turn. My hope is that we have made it through the worst of this difficult economic crisis and that there are now brighter days ahead.

Stan L. Albrecht, President

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