President Gee's letter on opportunities and challengesSeptember 12, 2016
Dear West Virginia University Faculty, Staff and Students:
There is nothing more exciting than the start of the fall semester. It is often the mark of all things new: new opportunities, new ideas and sometimes, new challenges.
West Virginia University continues to pursue opportunities that focus on our three pillars: Education, Healthcare and Prosperity. Through those pillars, we are working to increase retention and enrollment, address our state’s health needs and continue the groundbreaking research activity that earned this institution an R1 status earlier this year.
However, as we pursue those opportunities, we are also faced with an ever-increasing demand on the University’s budget. Over the past several years, there has been declining State support. Increased competition in the enrollment market and the importance of keeping tuition affordable has resulted in increased tuition discounting and scholarships that impact revenues. We also have incurred additional operating costs due to State obligations such as PEIA and wvOASIS (state technology for administrative operations).
In short, funding has decreased while cost obligations have risen.
As we reviewed the financial outlook for the University, we had to make a hard decision. To ensure that West Virginia University operates in a fiscally positive position, we will need to make adjustments in Fiscal Year 2017, and by the year 2020 we will need to reduce our overall budget by $45 million. To reach that reduction, adjustments will include reducing expenses while increasing revenues.
University leadership has been meeting to discuss the best ways we can reach this savings through cost avoidance, expense reductions and new revenue. Together we are working to ensure we continue to invest in our priorities such as the quality of our academics, our ongoing commitment to faculty and staff regarding salary compression and inversion, and leading our state to a healthier way of living. We also are committed to maintaining a strong financial outlook and transforming this University in new ways.
I am aware, however, that any discussion of budget can cause anxiety and worry among our teams. I am sensitive to the concerns you will have. And while we do not have all the answers, the University leadership is open to your questions and – most importantly – your ideas on how the University can move forward.
To begin discussions, there will be a Campus Conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Erickson Alumni Center beginning at noon. Provost Joyce McConnell will discuss the strategic goals of the University, while Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese and Vice Provost Russ Dean will share the five-year budget plan and ways it will be implemented. The Conversation is open to all faculty, staff and students. The event will be live-streamed, as well.
I also ask each of you to ask the hard questions about how we can change the way we have always done things to make them better. Be engaged when you are asked to discuss the task at hand. You also can make suggestions, get information and ask questions at the website bureaucracybusters.wvu.edu.
This is indeed a challenging moment. But it is also a moment of opportunity. It is an opportunity for self-reflection – something any large, complex organization should do. We need to discover how we can maximize our resources to focus on priorities that propel our University forward. We must work together toward solutions that will truly create One WVU.
And as we work together, West Virginia University will be a stronger institution, prepared and financially able to continue delivering on the land-grant mission we accepted nearly 150 years ago.
E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University