The guidelines outlined below provide a framework for developing the two-year budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The provost, vice presidents, and other senior managers have led the development of objectives for the seventh and eighth years of the university’s Strategic Plan, which will guide the formulation of budget priorities with Board of Trustees (BOT) approval. The objectives for the next two years emphasize the following:
progress made during the first five years under the plan;
expectations for the sixth year;
opportunities to maximize investments made to date under the plan; and
conclusions and recommendations of the institutional reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission.
The final report of the Middle States reaccreditation site visit team congratulated the entire university community on the breadth and depth of positive change and progress made since their last review, which was due, in part, to a program of aggressive investment in virtually every important element of our mission and operations. Efforts to ensure those investments are effectively advancing the targeted objective, encourage innovation, and act diligently on opportunities to leverage our resources effectively through enhanced efficiency throughout the university will be essential components of the FY2016-17 budget.
The FY2017 budget will be reviewed as the first year of the budget cycle concludes to ensure that the budget projections and assumptions upon which it was based still stand at that time.
1. Strategic Plan Initiatives & Middle States Recommendations. While there will be no change in the goals that comprise the Strategic Plan, there are two key points of focus reflected in the Strategic Plan objectives for the new two-year budget:
a. The areas on which the Middle States Commission has indicated it will expect us to report at mid-term, which include: demographic changes and our responses to the needs and interests of an increasingly diverse student body; appropriate goals for our performance in scholarly, professional and artistic work; needed support for our faculty, including attention to the mix of appointment types; and the size and pedagogy of graduate education.
b. Innovation and recommended improvements to policy, practice, and the provision of student and administrative services that will provide opportunities to gain all we can from the investments in people and initiatives that we have already made.
Our point of departure for the campus-wide discussions that will culminate in the development of these objectives was the President's report to the Board of Trustees on progress made under the plan to date. These new objectives will inform the development of the new budget's revenue and expenditure proposals. Both will be presented to the BOT for consideration and action at the March 2015 meeting.
2. Pricing. We will again place importance on our responsibility to work on education costs and debt in the development of the budget for the next two years, keeping tuition and residence hall rate increases as modest as possible. This requires developing pricing strategies that reflect a strong consideration of the financial needs of students, while also striking a careful balance with funding university priorities in the context of financial circumstances. Comparative tuition data, financial market data, inflation projections, and the state of the economy will also be taken into account. Based on these factors, we project that tuition and residence hall increases will range from 2.5 to 4.5 percent. Tuition rates for the Washington College of Law will also be set according to market and comparative data.
3.Enrollments and Academic Programs. The freshman enrollment target will be carefully evaluated in light of market demands and our capacity to offer quality instruction and student experience including appropriate undergraduate housing, while also anticipating increased selectivity and diversity. We will look closely at the challenges evident in some enrollment categories such as graduate, law, and the School of Professional & Extended Studies (SPExS) and will adjust targets to include new programs called for in AU 2030, and to ensure goals are realistically ambitious. The makeup of our graduate education offerings will be a strong area of focus in response to the Middle States report. The foundation established through the launch on new online graduate programs in five schools will provide for continued growth and exploration in this area for opportunity. Our efforts to strengthen research will focus on responding to recommendations stemming from a review of our research functions by the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA).
4. Efficiency Initiatives. Contrary to the overwhelming trends in American higher education, during the past five years and in the current year of the Strategic Plan, we added colleagues, enhanced salaries and benefits, improved both physical and information infrastructure, and bolstered a number of services. In the next two years we will take deliberate steps to ensure the resources that have been deployed are being fully and effectively utilized while also limiting the allocation of new funding. The nature of these efforts will be collaborative, and will require both communication of recommendations for improvement up to our leadership and also the articulation of strategic recommendations on how to maximize efficiency down from our leadership. Targets will be set for these improvement initiatives to measure impact in service delivery and costs savings. Rather than a one-time exercise, we will take action to integrate these practices for continuous improvement and cost savings to create an enhanced culture of assessment and improvement, which will ultimately ensure our efforts to balance responses to concerns about costs with strategic investments are in equilibrium and sustainable.
5. Faculty and Staff Salaries, Benefits & Health Care Regulations. While performance assessments will be carried out in accordance with the university's performance management process, several options for salary and benefit changes will be explored for inclusion in the FY2016-17 budget that ensures we remain market competitive. Competitive benefit packages will continue to be offered to our full-time faculty and staff, and we will also continue to ensure compliance with new health care regulations.
6. Financial Aid. Financial aid increases are an essential component of the university's action to address affordability concerns, and will be strategically deployed to address need and enhance diversity. Tuition discount ratios will be re-examined in reference to benchmark data including student indebtedness.
7. Facilities Strategy. The long-term facilities strategy integrates the 2011 Campus Plan and the Strategic Plan. The FY2016-17 budget will reflect operating expenses for two new facilities: the new law school at Tenley Campus that is scheduled to open in fall 2015 and east campus. A renovation of Bender Library and a new sciences building are among projects currently in the planning phase. Effective space management is also a critical component of our facilities strategy, and includes analyzing space utilization as well as providing for upgrades to instructional space and labs.
8. Information Technology. New or improved technologies will serve as critical tools in our efforts to support strategic decision-making and achieve gains in efficiency through improvements to student and support services. We will build on recent investments in business intelligence systems that have been created in the areas of admissions, enrollment, and budget and financial management to ensure those tools are being leveraged to advance the aforementioned aims to the greatest extent possible. We will strategically deploy resources in response to the strongest business cases presented to advance instructional technology, administrative services, and support the Strategic Plan goals. We will continue to seek greater efficiencies in maximizing computing resources and instructional methodologies whether in classrooms, labs, or distance learning.
10. Financial Safeguards. We will review the tuition management reserve and quasi-endowment to ensure an adequate funding level is included in the FY2016-17 budget.
11. Institutional Expenditures. Funding allocations for institutional expenditures will be limited to those required to respond to changes in public policy, regulations, or other critical external factors affecting the operating budget as they become known or clearer.
12. New Revenue. We will generate new revenue through innovations, strategic partnerships, and academic and auxiliary enterprise programs.