2009-10 Budget Plan

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, our College faces deep cuts to its state-appropriated operating budget for 2009-10. The economic recession has hit New York especially hard, and the recently-enacted state budget drives the consequences home to New Paltz in a direct and painful way. It is distressing that SUNY’s state-operated campuses have been cut more severely than all other educational institutions in New York (including K-12 schools, the state’s private colleges, the CUNY system and even SUNY’s community colleges). It is particularly egregious that the new budget breaks faith with students and their families by sweeping 80% of the recent tuition increase into other state coffers. I know how hard all of us lobbied our elected officials not to pursue this path. I’m grateful for this advocacy, even if in this instance it did not change the final result. Let us hope we’ve begun to raise awareness and that our state’s leaders will make wiser and fairer choices in the future.

Over the last few months, the College’s administrative and academic leadership has been developing a plan to generate new revenues and reduce spending, bringing New Paltz’s economy back into sustainable balance despite dramatically reduced resources. Our evaluations and recommendations clearly benefited from the broadly consultative process we followed, which included a number of opportunities for campus-wide input and the active involvement of faculty governance leaders during key early planning stages.

We have now completed a comprehensive plan that preserves the academic core of our College, honors tenure, and minimizes the impact on our workforce. The plan addresses current and anticipated cuts, allows us to maintain adequate reserves, permits us to make critical future investments, and positions New Paltz to succeed when the budget storms cease.

All told, the impact of these changes is approximately $6 million. Consistent with our mission and chief values, the substantial majority of our recommended actions-$3.7 million-focus on non-instructional areas, while $2.3 million will come from the instructional budget.

I write now to share the details of this plan.

New Revenue Generation:

Because it is far better to bring in additional revenue than simply to start cutting, we are proposing a series of steps that will generate about $250,000 annually in new funds. Many of these measures call for new or increased fees that allow us to recover more fully the costs of providing certain services and programs.

  • We will add course fees for biology ($30), chemistry ($30) and geology classes ($30-90), as well as for individual music lessons ($100).
  • We have begun to generate a substantial revenue stream (we estimate about $90,000/year) from applicants’ use of the Common Application form. These dollars can be deployed to cover some of our operating costs.
  • We will raise the time payment plan fee (i.e., the charge paid by students for spreading their tuition payments over a longer period) from $25 to $30.
  • We will raise a number of parking fees. The faculty/staff fee will increase from $10 to $20, and the visitor “park and pay” charge will rise from $1 to $2. We will now require a summer parking permit costing $12.50/session or $20 for the entire summer. (This will not affect those with a yearlong permit, which already includes summer.) Student permits will remain $60/year, but we will eliminate the reduced lot option. Management/confidential employees will now pay $60/year-the same as students.
  • We will increase faculty & staff membership fees at the Athletic and Wellness Center from $100 to $200 per year.
  • We will increase the fee charged to alumni for Reunion weekend, helping to make that event more self-sufficient.

These fees will all take effect in the 2009-10 year. Monies generated from these fees go into Income Fund Reimbursable (IFR) accounts, and this can be used to relieve the operating budget.

Cost-Saving Measures—Actions Already Taken:

Readers of past budget updates and attendees at faculty and staff meetings already know about a series of cost-saving measures implemented this spring by the Division of Academic Affairs. All base savings they generate (an estimated $2 million per year) count towards meeting our overall goals. To reiterate, we have:

  • Reduced staff through the attrition of 51 positions. Of those, 34 lines were instructional (including the nonrenewal of several lecturers with one-year appointments) and 17 were non-instructional.
    Reduced the number of new faculty hires (for positions starting in fall 2009) from 28 to 15.
  • Further reduced our reliance on adjunct faculty by cancelling about 35 low-enrolled course sections and eliminating some reassigned faculty time.
  • Substantially reduced the number of half-year, full-pay sabbaticals.
  • Instituted a three-month hiring freeze for all vacated non-instructional positions.

Cost-Saving Measures—New Actions:

Another major element of our plan is to maximize the use of budget funds other than the (now-reduced) state operating budget. These would include IFR accounts (e.g., revenue from athletic, health, parking and technology fees), the Dormitory Income Fund Reimbursable (DIFR) account (revenue from residence halls) and the State University Tuition Reimbursable (SUTRA) account (tuition from summer and contract courses). Together these three funds generate about $31 million annually. The goal is to match our expenses as tightly as possible with the source of the associated revenue. By doing this carefully, we can shift about $1.3 million in expenses onto these funds. In addition, all expenditures from these funds have been scrutinized using our ground rules, constraints and criteria, and we have also made cuts in these areas.

We have been able to set targets for significant savings in several key areas of nonpersonnel expenditures. Our thinking here was shaped in no small part by suggestions received from the campus community. We intend to reduce Other Than Personal Service (OTPS) costs by $640,000 and energy costs by $325,000. The energy target will only be attainable with the help and environmental sensitivity of the entire college community. The small but important steps each of us can take to be more energy efficient will add up.

However, as Vice President DiStefano and I have previously explained, given the magnitude of the budget cuts, we cannot solve our problem through revenue generation and reductions in nonpersonnel expenses alone. With 84% of our budget dedicated to personnel costs, unfortunately we must reduce the size of our workforce. To that end we are proposing some voluntary workload reduction programs and we plan to consolidate and eliminate some campus services. These actions will lead to the elimination of about 20 additional positions through retirements, attrition, and nonrenewals. (By the time you read this, all affected individuals will have been notified about their status.) Together with the actions already taken, this will mean the elimination of a total of about 70 positions at the college. Decisions to end an employee’s position are wrenching; we deeply regret that our budget situation has forced us to let anyone go. But I hasten to add that, consistent with the constraints that have shaped our entire decision-making process, we will fully honor all legal contracts with affected employees. Our Human Resources department is assisting these colleagues with their questions and concerns.

The following additional measures (totaling about $1.5 million) are planned to bring New Paltz’s budget back into balance. We will:

  • Consolidate services provided by the print shop and mailroom.
  • Eliminate salary increases for all management/confidential employees in 2009-10.
  • Initiate a program of voluntary, unpaid salary reduction for reduced work time, the details of which will be shared at a later date. I should note that the genesis of this idea was the many offers from employees to reduce their own compensation to save colleagues’ jobs, help fill the budget deficit, and protect the College’s future.
  • Make more efficient use of custodial services in office areas (personnel savings here will be achieved through attrition).
  • Reduce the number of administrative assistants/secretaries (personnel savings here will also be achieved through attrition).
  • Consolidate and reorganize a number of administrative areas, including receiving and distribution; instructional support; external communication and media relations; and special events and alumni affairs.
  • Discontinue our December Commencement.
  • Phase out our Nursing program. As discussed below, we will do this in a manner that gives enrolled students an opportunity to finish their degrees in a timely fashion and that fulfills contracts with faculty and staff.
  • Suspend admission to Master of Science in Education (M.S. Ed.) and Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) programs in Chemistry, Earth Science, French, Mathematics and Spanish.
  • Phase out synchronous distance learning activities.
  • Reduce overtime costs by $50,000.

Detailed plans for the reduction of overtime and nonpersonnel expenses will also be shared at a later date.

Nursing Program:

Undoubtedly, the most visible step being taken as a result of this budget crisis is the phasing out of the College’s Nursing program. Thus, it seems necessary to share more detail about the impact of and rationale for this action. The College plans to offer all students currently enrolled in the program (148 majors or about 50 FTE in the undergraduate program and 19 graduate students) the opportunity to graduate before the program closes, most likely in three years at the end of current faculty contracts. Beginning with fall 2009, no new students will be admitted to the B.S. in Nursing, M.S. in Nursing or Certificate of Advanced Study in Nursing programs. This action affects 12 individuals. Fortunately, our sister institution SUNY Delhi has agreed to guarantee admission to its online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to all students who would have joined us this fall. There are also several other local institutions that offer nursing programs, including Mount Saint Mary College and Excelsior College.

As I noted above, we will of course honor all contractual obligations with faculty and staff working in the program. Nursing currently has five full-time faculty with one new hire set to begin in fall 2009. The sole tenured professor has already announced her retirement, to occur in spring 2010. The remaining four faculty on tenure-track appointments will be able to complete their employment contracts. One instructor on a permanent appointment and one secretary will be reassigned.

The decision to phase out Nursing has not been made because of questions about the quality of this program or the success of its graduates. To the contrary, this is a good program and the College is proud of it. But in this budgetary climate, we simply cannot continue to do everything we currently do.

Nursing is an expensive program on a cost-per-student basis compared with other academic offerings. The program is not closely linked to our liberal arts core. New Paltz has had difficulty recruiting, retaining and awarding tenure to fully credentialed nursing faculty, in no small part because of a national shortage of nursing faculty. While there is a genuine need for more nurses, it is important to recognize that this upper-division, transfer-only program does not create new nurses. All students who enroll are already registered nurses. But New Paltz does create better nurses, and our graduate program trains nursing educators and nursing administrators. We deeply regret that we will no longer contribute to society in this way. We will need to find other ways to serve our region and state.

Suspending Admission to Several Graduate Programs:

In addition to graduate nursing programs, beginning this fall we plan to suspend admission to the M.S. Ed. and M.A.T. programs in Chemistry, Earth Science, French, Mathematics and Spanish.

As with Nursing, all currently enrolled students will be offered the opportunity to complete their program. This action affects 41 current students and four students offered admission for fall 2009.

All of these programs have historically (for the last 20 years) been unable to attract substantial enrollment, notwithstanding efforts by the School of Education, the Admissions office and local schools. And this despite the fact that many of these are high-need subject areas. Alas, the magnitude of our budget cuts precludes us from continuing to underwrite programs that have consistently had such small demand.

As these programs wind down, we will ask their full-time faculty to teach instead high-demand core subjects at the undergraduate level. As a result, the College will be able to use fewer adjuncts.

Over the next several years, because we are not deactivating these programs, faculty in affected departments will have the opportunity to recast our approach to graduate education in these fields in ways that meet the approval of the Dean of the Graduate School and the Provost and will attract viable enrollments. Indeed, as we go forward, any new or current graduate or undergraduate program for which we have suspended admission will require a compelling strategy that ensures sufficient enrollment.

Comment Period

We have tapped our collective wisdom in crafting this plan. We have not diluted our quality across the board, for example, by increasing course sizes. Instead, we have made smart but hard choices that promise to build long-term strength. We believe the plan is thorough, wise, and forward-looking. It is my strong expectation that we will proceed in accordance with this plan. But, consistent with our budget decision process, we want to offer one last opportunity to solicit comments on our future direction. We want to ensure that we have not made a major factual error in our analysis and that we have considered all viewpoints. Accordingly, comments on this plan may be sent on or before April 25 to Vice President DiStefano at distefaj@newpaltz.edu; submitted in the electronic suggestion box in my.newpaltz.edu; or placed in the budget suggestion boxes located in the lobbies of the Haggerty Building, Jacobson Faculty Tower and the Service Building. I expect that a large portion of the Academic and Professional Faculty meeting on April 17 will be spent discussing this plan. I also plan to meet with classified staff on April 21 to talk about these matters. We are sharing this information with faculty and staff today and intend to share it with all students tomorrow, after the Nursing faculty have had an opportunity to meet with their students in person. Until that time, I would ask that you respect the desire of the Nursing program to share this news directly with its nursing students.

As we have done throughout this process, we are trying to anticipate how the state’s fiscal situation will play out in this and subsequent years. So our budget discussions will continue-albeit with considerably less intensity. Obviously, if SUNY is cut further, there will be even more severe consequences to our academic and institutional profile. All our planning will utilize the same ground rules, constraints and criteria that have been vetted with and shaped by our community-and which have served us well so far.

It is profoundly unfortunate that the world-wide recession, coupled with New York State’s penchant for undisciplined spending, has led to such deep cuts to SUNY and to New Paltz. But our College will emerge from this challenge in what is an even stronger position. We have remarkably talented faculty, there is more than robust demand to enroll here, and we have wisely stewarded our resources. We are, and will remain, one of the finest public colleges in the Northeast. I know that all of you-faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who have been such a vital part of New Paltz’s success in recent years-will be part of our future triumphs. Our innate strengths have resulted in a growing reputation for quality. That momentum will not slow. We’ve come too far as an institution to let that happen, and together we will go even further.

Steven G. Poskanzer