Shortly I will be sending an email to all current and prospective students concerning the proposed non-renewal of several state and federal financial aid programs, including Federal Pell grants, TEXAS grants and “B-on-time” loans. Over the past weeks I have also testified to the appropriate Texas House and Senate Committees on the impact that their proposed budget reductions would have on Angelo State University. While no decisions have been reached by these legislative bodies, I would like to summarize events to this point and identify strategies we have in place to deal with future directives from the state.
As I indicated in my January 2011 letter to the campus:
- We have been told to plan for future budget cuts, possibly up to 20%.
- We have established a review process to determine which academic programs will be enhanced, maintained, monitored or closed.
- Reallocation of faculty and other resources to support enrollment growth must occur in tandem with decisions on how to trim our budget to meet state mandates.
- Decisions will be based on strategic prioritizations instead of simple across the board reductions.
My February 27th article in the Standard-Times Progress Edition re-emphasized these points:
- We will review and implement measures to reallocate existing funds from programs and services which do not support our enrollment target to those that do.
- Budget cuts at the levels being discussed (“possibly up to 20%”) will impact programs and people on campus.
House Bill 1 (HB1) and Senate Bill 1 (SB1) have now been introduced with the following recommendations for Angelo State University:
- The proposed reductions for HB1 and SB1 each total a little over $6 million annually.
- The $2,000,000 we received for nursing in the last budget cycle is now eliminated.
- These proposed reductions include 25% less for our Special Items or $2,981,058 per year. (Smaller institutions like ASU rely more heavily on Special Items. Our budget currently contains over $2.5 million for Institutional Enhancements, which we use mainly for salaries).
- The budget for Texas Tech University System operations has been reduced to zero.
These proposed reductions do not include the over $2.5 million (5%) we have already given back over the past months to help Texas through the current budget crisis. There also is an abundance of speculation in the media about the role that the Texas ‘rainy day’ funds might have on minimizing the impact of these proposed budget reductions. In our discussions with senior Texas legislative leaders, they have emphasized that if these funds are used, the vast majority will be directed to programs whose budgets are mandated by state statute, rather than to areas such as higher education whose budgets are not fixed by law.
The University Budget Advisory Team (UBAT) has been active over the past months and we have already begun to implement several of its cost cutting recommendations, such as restrictions on travel and shutting off computers to reduce energy consumption. The academic program review process also continues, as does the non-academic review process, with recommendations due to my office later this semester. These are important initiatives and have my full support but the magnitude of the proposed budget reductions now requires that we take a further step to craft a budget framework which can respond to any state mandates.
That framework must adhere to the strategic planning process and goals which I re-affirmed to the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents at its recent meeting on campus in February. As I have indicated over the past years, Texas funds its universities on enrollment growth which means that the target of 10,000 students by 2020 is our primary strategic goal. The specific initiatives to achieve that student target are summarized by my four ‘R’s: recruitment, retention, residential and recognition. We have made great strides over the past two years, especially in overall enrollment and retention figures, but these trends must continue in spite of the impact of proposed budget reductions.
Decisions to achieve the magnitude of reductions now being proposed will not be easy nor will they be without serious implications for programs and personnel on campus. As such, I have asked the four Vice Presidents to take the recommendations of UBAT and the academic/non-academic program review processes, to begin to craft a broader institutional framework to meet the final directives from the Legislature.
As you know, the Legislative session ends in May and so our response to their directives will have to be developed in only a short period of time. By blending discussions from UBAT and the academic/non-academic program review outcomes with the broader perspectives held by the Vice Presidents, we can achieve a transparent campus wide plan of action. Ultimately it will be my recommendation to the Chancellor that will determine specific responses to these budget reductions, but I pledge that my decisions will be based on the outcomes of this campus wide process.
Again thank you for your dedication to ASU and to its students. I will continue my efforts to minimize the impact of these proposed reductions on our students, staff and faculty in the coming months.
Joseph C. Rallo