Over the past several weeks, as the downturn in the state and national economies became clear, we began the process of preparing for substantial mid-year cuts in our state funding.
State funding now represents 32 percent of our operating budget, with 68 percent coming from fees, auxiliary activities, philanthropy and grants and contracts. We are very conscious that as we struggle with reductions in the 32 percent state-funded portion of the budget we must carefully consider how our decisions affect the 68 percent of non-state funding. Reducing enrollment, impairing services, and making ourselves less competitive for donations or grants will only accelerate a downward spiral. We instead must be creative and innovative, as well as practical, in managing state revenue losses.
The deep cuts announced by Governor Patrick yesterday will be painful and will require difficult choices in the days and months ahead. We do not have major cash reserves and most of our funds are targeted to core activities. But like so many others, we will have to do what is necessary. I am confident that all of us—administrators, staff and faculty—will once again rise to the challenge, as we have done during prior fiscal difficulties. We will preserve the quality of education for our students and protect financial access to that education. We will continue to dream big while we manage constraints.
Leadership is needed at every level. This is not a problem that I can solve alone. The vice chancellors and deans have been looking at solutions, and we will be conferring with the campus community about the options we have identified. I anticipate a town meeting-style gathering to update the full community about our plans in a few weeks. There is certainly an urgency to our task because the longer we wait, the more limited our choices become.
The state budget is entirely devoted to personnel costs, so we already know some of the difficult choices that we must consider:
- A reduction in force accomplished by a strict but targeted hiring freeze and attrition, and regrettably, the possibility of layoffs.
- A targeted reduction in non-personnel operating budgets.
- A delay or deferral of some planned new activities.
- An accelerated energy savings plan that will require an adjustment in behavior by everyone.
- A selected use of limited cash reserves.
We are not considering a mid-year student charge increase or any financial aid cuts at this time. We are exploring other revenue enhancement options. We are also considering some other significant management changes.
Realistically, given the uncertainty in the economic climate, we must recognize that these types of reductions are likely to spill over into the next fiscal year. Going forward, everything we do must be on the table for a second look. It is imperative that UMass Dartmouth remain a place of excellent and accessible educational opportunity. There is simply no choice about these core mission priorities.
As we move forward, our success and long-term viability will depend on our willingness to sustain shared sacrifice across the campus, our ability to innovate, and our desire to engage in new and effective collaborations and partnerships.
We have accomplished a lot—together—over the last decade. It is important to remember that these shared accomplishments often took place during periods of fiscal distress, both nationally and here in the Commonwealth. We excelled even when state support for public higher education was declining.
We have pursued our mission with a mature awareness that we would have to be creative generating revenue to support our aspirations. We have not waited for the “check to be in the mail.” We have expelled the entitlement mentality and embraced a competitive approach to attracting investment.
We enter this uncertain time knowing that a lot of people, including our students and their families, are facing difficult financial challenges. We do so believing that it is our responsibility here at UMass Dartmouth to act with resolve, integrity and creativity as we become a little less public and a little more private.
As we take action, you can feel assured that we will protect our academic quality and we will identify those investments that will make our university and our region even stronger over the long-term.
We have done it before, and with commitment and collaboration, we will do it again.
Jean F. MacCormack, Chancellor