Next steps in reducing our budget

Dear Faculty and Staff:

As we continue to work together as a community to address all of the challenges presented by COVID‑19 and simultaneously fulfill our mission to the people of the state, I want to update you about the process we have kicked off to address one of our most critical issues—the University’s budget for the 2020–21 fiscal year.

As you know, in May I announced that all units across the system would be asked to prepare plans reducing their budgets by 10% to meet the steep declines in state revenues due to the pandemic. At the same time, I shared 4 guiding principles we would apply in preparing the budget-cutting scenarios: prioritizing core and mission critical activities; protecting as many WSU jobs as possible, particularly those of our lower-earning faculty and staff; increasing revenue-generating opportunities; and aligning the budget to achieve financial sustainability system‑wide.

After your hard work to reduce unit spending for 3 consecutive fiscal years to restore the University’s overall fiscal health, I was looking forward to investing additional monies in our academic and research enterprise in the next fiscal year. Many units were anticipating hiring outstanding new faculty and staff colleagues to fill positions that had been held open for several years. In short, it is discouraging for all of us to now face yet another budget-reduction scenario.

Nonetheless, we have put in place a process that ensures transparency and widespread participation in our effort to grapple with reduced funding. This is a team exercise, and we will stay focused on making decisions for the good of the entire WSU system. I deeply appreciate the efforts of the entire Coug community to once again roll up its collective sleeves to tackle this newest challenge.

Here is a step‑by‑step summary of the budget reduction process to date and the steps ahead of us:

  • All chancellors, vice presidents, and deans have completed scenarios that reduce their Permanent Budget Line (PBL) funds by 10%.
  • On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, each chancellor, vice president, and dean participated in Zoom meetings during which they presented their proposals to meet the 10% reduction. We invited leadership from the Faculty Senate, Administrative Professional Advisory Council (APAC), Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), and WSU System Student Government Council (SGC) to listen to and participate in these sessions.
  • With these presentations now completed, Vice President of Finance and Administration Stacy Pearson and her team will work on several scenarios based on the data and information we received.
  • The Executive Committee of the President’s Cabinet (myself, Interim Provost Bryan Slinker, incoming Provost Elizabeth Chilton, Vice President Pearson, Vice President of Health Sciences Daryll DeWald, Vice President of Research Chris Keane, Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales, and Office of the President Chief of Staff Christine Hoyt) will then evaluate and discuss these options. The committee will develop a proposed set of budget reductions to meet the 10% goal.
  • This proposal then will be shared with a variety of leadership groups across the University system (the full President’s Cabinet, deans, Faculty Senate, APAC, GPSA, SGC) in early July for feedback and critique. We will discuss how the proposed reductions fit our budget principles and rationale.
  • The Executive Committee will review the feedback and recommendations from various meetings and make any needed modifications to the original proposal.
  • We will send out a campus communication in mid‑July outlining the budget reductions and the reasons for them.
  • We will continue to closely monitor the ongoing financial challenges created by COVID‑19 as well as the University’s overall financial picture. Federal and state revenues, tuition income, and the success of enhanced WSU revenue-generating activities are among the factors that will continue to shape our budget situation and influence financial decisions beyond the middle of July.

At the end of the day, no process is perfect and there never will be complete agreement concerning fiscal decisions. However, we will continue to communicate transparently and regularly so that everyone is aware of the magnitude and potential impact of the cuts and understands where and why they were implemented.

It also will be important that we clearly document the negative effects these budget cuts will have on our ability to teach, support students, conduct research, and engage with our communities. Although I appreciate that higher education often—and especially we Cougs—finds ways to do things creatively, we ultimately hurt ourselves by expecting to provide the same levels of service with 10% fewer funds.

Please let me know if you have any questions about our process as we proceed.

Go Cougs!

Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University