Update on the college's financial planning efforts
Posted on December 16, 2011
Dear staff and faculty,
The first semester has raced by, as it always seems to do, and we will soon be heading into the holiday break. Before classes end and the campus quiets, I wanted to update you our efforts to strengthen Wheaton for the short- and long term.
As you know, the college began the academic year with a structural budget deficit that would extend over a number of years, if nothing were done to change the situation. But we do plan to act to put Wheaton on a stronger footing, and I am confident that we will be successful in that effort.
Since September, the college has taken major steps to address its fiscal situation as well as continuing efforts to improve our outreach to prospective students and to enhance the quality of the student experience. I am writing to update you on what has been accomplished so far, and to share our plans for further action.
We have worked throughout the fall to identify areas where the college can reduce expenses or increase revenue this year. While the process has been labor-intensive, this effort has been very successful; we have identified $3 million in budget reductions and new revenue. (This figure does not include the $2.7 million in reductions that have been achieved since 2010.)
A number of ideas for cutting costs and increasing revenue have come from staff and faculty suggestions. The President’s Council has reviewed every idea, and we are enacting all those that were feasible. Among the cost-saving steps are new policies for catering and business travel, the cancellation of many institutional memberships and a new approach to providing cell phones for employees who are required to remain on call. On the revenue side, the college will introduce a variety of charges, including the reinstatement of the admission application fee, which has been waived in recent years.
Beyond those measures, we continue to look at staffing. The strategic hiring freeze announced earlier this year has resulted in a number of vacant positions. This week we formally decided to eliminate 23 full-time equivalent staff positions, most of which were already vacant due to the hiring freeze. However, several current staff members hold positions that will either be eliminated at the end of this fiscal year or reduced to part-time status. They have already been notified of these pending changes. By providing six months advance notice, our hope is that these individuals will be in a better position to adjust their workloads and schedules or seek new opportunities.
While I do not anticipate further reductions in staff positions, I intend to continue the strategic hiring freeze and the vacancy review process. This will ensure that we take every opportunity to be efficient in our work, by reorganizing staff and reallocating responsibilities, when possible.
These steps represent a strong start to correcting our fiscal imbalance, but on their own, they are insufficient. We also must continue to work to strengthen our appeal to prospective students and their families. Improved marketing and branding will be part of the answer.
We have developed and introduced the new marketing material created by Generation, we are emphasizing our beautiful new Mars Center for Science and Technology, and made other changes to this year’s recruiting activities.
However, we also will look at improving our programs and facilities in ways that help to recruit students as well as improve the experience of current students. Staff and faculty across campus are engaged in many of these discussions, ranging from new academic programs in which students regularly express interest to further enhancement of career services at the Filene Center. We also will look at opportunities for developing new sources of revenue, including an expansion of our summer program for Chinese students.
The college has made great progress this fall, responding to difficult economic circumstances while sustaining the quality of the educational experience that we offer students. It would not have been possible without the dedication of staff and faculty. We have much yet to accomplish, but I know that we are equal to the tasks that lie ahead.