President's Campus Communication 1/30/09

Dear UNC Colleagues,

Considering the steady drumbeat of negative economic news we are experiencing, I was pleasantly surprised by the fiscal year 2010 higher education budget reduction recommendations Gov. Ritter made to the Joint Budget Committee this week. Under the Governor’s proposals for this fiscal year and next, UNC’s general fund appropriation would be reduced by a total of $2.9 million from the Governor’s initial request. Our state-funded financial aid would be reduced by approximately $590,000 in total. While this is still a significant amount, it is gratifying to see the Governor following through on his often-expressed commitment to higher education. But it’s also important to remember that his recommendations are based on highly fluid revenue projections.

As you know, UNC’s budget depends on a number of variables that are difficult to pin down at this point. A good example is the economic stimulus package being considered by Congress, which could increase need-based financial aid and provide funding to offset some of the cuts in state support for higher education operations and capital. In addition, we continue to press state policy makers not to hamper our Board’s ability to set tuition and fees at an optimal level while making UNC accessible to all students who meet our academic standards.

The Board of Trustees met January 26 to discuss our strategies for budget, tuition and fees. Additionally I’ve been talking with legislators, policy makers, newspaper editorial boards and other university presidents about a new hybrid funding model for higher education that recognizes the Board of Trustees’ authority to set tuition at levels which will provide additional financial aid for students who can’t afford the higher cost. Senate President Peter Groff (who also sponsored our Education Innovation Institute bill) has invited all of the higher education CEOs to a meeting to discuss the hybrid model on February 10. The Greeley Tribune ran an editorial on Sunday that noted: “The budget-cut train has left the station, and we think UNC is moving in the right direction to meet the challenge.”

Following up on the communication I shared with you January 12, I had a productive discussion with the vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, deans and governance group leaders about ways to invest in our priorities, maximize revenues and manage expenditures. They have since held meetings in their areas to collect additional ideas, and I look forward to hearing those when I meet with that group again next week. If you weren’t able to participate in a discussion, you can access the presentation and provide feedback online at http://www.unco.edu/pres/ under the “Financial Matters” link, where we are archiving campus communications and information about fiscal issues.

I will continue to keep you apprised as we learn more about the state budget. The next state revenue estimate will be released March 20, and the Long Bill should be introduced March 23. Fortunately, however, we don’t have to wait on the state budget timeline to move forward. Our campus-wide recruitment and retention efforts are vitally important, as are our discussions about protecting the University’s most valuable investment and asset, our employees. I appreciate the work you are doing to keep us moving forward, and I am heartened by the positive conversations I’ve been hearing on campus over the past few weeks.

Sincerely,

Kay Norton