March 19, 2019
On March 5, I wrote to let you know that the University of Oregon’s budget situation is becoming more challenging and it is imperative we move forward with efforts to reduce the UO’s annual operating costs. Since then, I have met with a variety of campus stakeholders to receive advice and guidance. Those meetings have been extremely useful in shaping our next steps, including helping identify priorities and principles to guide us. We all have a shared goal of ensuring the institution maintains a strong, upward trajectory even as we grapple with state funding challenges and decreases in international enrollment.
Based on analysis by Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt and her team, we must reduce about $11 million in annual recurring expenditures from the education and general budget. I have provided the provost and vice presidents with cost-reduction goals for their units and asked them to develop plans for achieving those savings. We will prioritize our core academic and research activities; therefore, I have set higher savings targets for administrative units than I have for schools and colleges. Administrative functions will be subject to a 3 percent budget reduction, and decreases for schools and colleges will be in aggregate no more than 2.5 percent. The provost’s office will do everything possible to ensure that the changes in our schools and colleges have as little negative impact as possible on academic activities and programs, including career faculty and staff members.
Each vice president will have discretion for how best to deliver savings within their units, but I have asked them to consider some guiding principles and priorities, including:
- AFFORDABILITY—We must not step back from our commitment to making the UO accessible to first-generation, underrepresented, and lower-income students. We will shield PathwayOregon and Diversity Excellence Scholarships from cuts.
- STUDENT SUCCESS—To the fullest extent possible, units across campus should prioritize funding for efforts that support student success programs. Ensuring that we provide students with tutoring, mentoring, and advising are at the core of a great educational institution. Ultimately, this will help us to maintain affordability by enabling students to persist and graduate on time. We will also protect our student success investments in Tykeson Hall and the new advisors that are being hired to bring our student-to-advisor ratio closer to the national average.
- CAMPUS SAFETY—We will protect our law enforcement and Title IX (prevention and enforcement) initiatives from budget cuts because we must provide a safe campus environment for students, the faculty and staff, and the broader community. Related programs and positions should be prioritized by individual units as they contemplate budget-reduction plans.
- REVENUE GENERATION—Initiatives and programs that generate revenue should be priorities that vice presidents weigh in their budget-reduction considerations. For this reason, frontline fundraisers and student recruiters will be protected. In addition, programs and efforts that support enrollment growth goals should be similarly prioritized.
Given that nearly 80 percent of our education and general budget pays salaries, it is impossible to achieve savings without affecting jobs. The UO already runs a very lean operation after decades of state disinvestment, and our staffing levels are below most of our peer institutions nationally. That means that many of our units will have to consider difficult decisions that may affect the level of service provided to the campus community. In some cases, we may need to stop doing things that are not aligned with the priorities I have identified or the UO’s teaching, research, and service mission.
I will meet with and review the provost and vice presidents’ planned budget reductions. While I am not going to mandate a hiring freeze, to the extent reasonable, I have asked vice presidents to consider whether savings can be achieved by leaving open positions vacant or through attrition. In cases where it is necessary to move forward with workforce reductions, plans must be reviewed and approved by Human Resources and the Office of the General Counsel. In close coordination with Human Resources professionals across campus, we will diligently work to ensure that colleagues who are affected by budget reductions are offered a full range of support services and treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
We are entering a challenging period, but the hurdles we face are not insurmountable. We will continue to forcefully make the case in Salem that the state’s public higher-education system needs a consistent and stable funding model that does not continually look to Oregon’s students and families to fill gaps in public support. The UO will continue to pursue a growth strategy that seeks to stabilize revenue swings by carefully and modestly increasing nonresident undergraduate enrollment over the next few years. And we will continue to leverage donor support to invest in academic initiatives—such as the Knight Campus, the Presidential Science Initiative and the Humanities Fellowship Program—that expand and strengthen our world-class academic and research programs. By working together, the UO can and will come out of these budget challenges stronger and with a clear focus on our very bright shared future.
I thank each and every one of you for all you do to make the University of Oregon a special place.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law