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Fiscal Health | Washington State University

Office of the Provost response

November 1, 2017

For more than a year, President Schulz has been communicating to staff, faculty and students regarding Washington State University’s budget situation. On Monday, he provided an update that outlined plans for the current fiscal year. Hopefully, this correspondence did not surprise you, as we have tried to be very transparent about the financial pressures facing areas within the Provost’s Office and Enrollment Management.

WSU has spent more money than it has received in revenues for the past four years. This has caused us to spend down our reserves to dangerously low levels. For example, last year, WSU spent $30 million more than it received in revenues; hence, we must take steps now to reverse this trend. Since it has taken WSU four years of overspending to get to this point, it will take us several years to get our budget back in balance. To start this process, each unit at WSU has been instructed to reduce its spending by 2.5 percent for the current fiscal year. Similar spending reductions are expected to continue for at least the next two fiscal years.

While a subtle point, it is important to note that these reductions are not taking the form of a budget cut, with permanent funds being returned to the central budget. They are spending reductions designed to slow down the university’s depletion of cash reserves. Of course, within the area, adjustments with the unit-level impact of cuts may need to be made to bring expenditures and revenues into alignment in the area overall.

University-wide directives
President Schulz has instructed all units to take the following steps in order to rein in expenditures:

  • Hold any vacant positions open as long as possible.
  • When considering a position for hire, ensure that the position is essential, where essential means:
    • Failure to hire would result in a high risk of program failure; or
    • The position responsibilities cannot be met by anyone else in the unit; or
    • No opportunities exist to access the expertise from other units across the university; or
    • It is required for the health/safety of students and employees; or
    • It is required for emergency management and response; or
    • It is required for student health and wellness; or
    • It is necessary to meet compliance requirements.

Other steps to include for expenditure reduction are:

  • Reduce or defer travel and other operating expenses that are non-essential;
  • Discontinue services that are not fully meeting constituent needs;
  • Consolidate services and units to reduce duplication and cost and to gain efficiencies;
  • Do not award salary increases that are outside of those granted by the University through planned salary increase programs.

Provost area budget actions
Relative to much of the university, areas within the Provost’s Office (including Enrollment Management) had a head start in addressing budget concerns. In addition to the above referenced 2.5 percent reduction, last year we announced and implemented a permanent 3 percent reduction for FY-18 and instructed area administrators to plan for an additional 3 percent permanent reduction in FY-19. Therefore, our area administrators have already been engaged in the budget planning necessary to meet budget reduction targets and comply with the president’s directives.

Given our fiscal environment, it cannot be business as usual. We will need to make sacrifices this year; but by addressing these challenges now, we are giving ourselves the chance to reduce expenditures in a thoughtful, systematic way. Most importantly, we need to remain laser focused on our primary mission – serving our students. Recruiting and retaining our students is by far the best revenue generation strategy for WSU.

Thank you for all you do for Washington State University, and thank you for your patience as we address these financial issues.