Monday, September 28, 2009

Budget impasse, mission continues

Two months ago I wrote about the economic challenges we’re facing as a university, which haven’t gotten easier with the stalemate of the final state budget process. The delay has cast a cloud of uncertainty on the appropriations we receive as part of the state system of universities. Last year the state appropriation amounted to just over 36% of the university operating budget. A full month into the fall semester, we’re still waiting for a state spending plan for this fiscal year.

A lot of my meetings in recent weeks – as you read last week are many - have centered on the budget issue. Continuous work on our own operating budget for next year is nothing new but waiting this long for an indication of a major revenue stream is. As a result, we have been very cautious in projecting our spending – more so than we traditionally do. We have also made a stronger commitment in coordinating fundraising efforts and connections with our alumni. In today’s economy, support of our alumni and friends is even more vital.

Despite this administrative frustration, high quality higher education continues on campus. Our freshmen have survived their first wave of quizzes and section tests, seniors are inching closer to completing their graduation requirements and the faculty continues their hard work in keeping our students on track despite the whirlwind of editorials on potential reduction of funding for financial aid and university operations. Rest assured, nothing is set in stone until we see a final budget, and we are committed to everything possible to prevent negative impacts on direct instruction and student support. However, seeing our mission continue in the wake of the greatest budget uncertainty in my career makes me proud to be the president of this university.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel soon. We were close two weeks ago in seeing a final state budget plan with a “hand shake” agreement on a $28 billion proposal. Let’s hope progress continues, because I don’t want to revisit this blog topic in another month.

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