After meeting with the Board of Trustees, President Michael Roth sent a campus-wide community update e-mail on Nov. 25, laying out the University’s course of action in the difficult financial climate. If the Wesleyan Annual Fund’s goal of $17.6 million is met, and no further significant losses occur in the University’s investment portfolio, then the newly proposed measures will allow the University to achieve a balanced budget.
In recent months the University’s endowment has declined by roughly 20 percent, to about $511 million. Due to this drop, the University is estimating that the base budget will need to be cut by at least $15 million within the next five years.
Purposed cuts include a freeze on faculty, staff and librarian salaries for 2009-10, which would result in a savings of $2.03 million. Additional reductions in capital and major maintenance projects will occur in coming years with an estimated savings of $7 million. In addition, the University is considering raising tuition more than the originally planned five percent. Currently, $5 million in reductions are being made by departments to aid the University’s goal of reducing the base budget.
A proposal to increase undergraduate class size by 30 students for a total of 120 over four years is also being considered and would yield about $3.9 million in revenue. Plans for maintaining a 0.5 percent increase in the retirement matching program for faculty and staff will remain in place.
The administration will seek campus opinions about the list of proposed cuts.
“More will be made public over the next few weeks through conversations with the community…Note that no final decisions have been made and that we are seeking input from the community just like we sought input from the board,” wrote Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts in an email to the Argus.
Despite these proposed cuts, Roth and the Board say that they are committed to protecting the student experience by maintaining the faculty-student ratio. They reassure that if additional classes are needed to accommodate a larger student population, they will be added. Need-blind admissions will also remain a priority, they say.
“We reaffirmed our priorities of protecting teaching, research, and the student experience and preserving a robust financial aid program that admits students regardless of their ability to pay,” Roth wrote in the community email. “Despite upheaval in the financial markets, Wesleyan remains well positioned to address those priorities.”
Despite tough times for the budget, Roth plans to move ahead with some of his proposed initiatives including the College of the Environment and an expansion of writing programs.
Roth, who is currently meeting alumni in Los Angeles, has seen the widespread effects of the financial crisis.
“As I visit with alumni, I hear stories of significant layoffs and salary cuts; the economic crisis is obviously reverberating widely,” Roth wrote in an email to the Argus. “Still, you should know that our Wesleyan family continues to volunteer their support, in dollars and in spirit.”
Roth, however, is still asking for everyone to be prudent with spending.
“We are asking everyone in the community to be cognizant of the need to save money whenever and wherever possible,” Roth said.
Roth and his colleagues will meet with the Wesleyan Student Assembly on December 7, the University faculty on December 9 and senior administrative staff on December 12 to discuss budget saving ideas.
Meerts reports that the administration has already received feedback from various committees.
“This consultation process is ongoing before we make final decisions around the February board meeting,” he said.