As we begin a new school year, I would like to give you an update on where we are with addressing Voiland College’s budget gap.
As many of you know, WSU President Schulz has made improving WSU’s fiscal health a major priority of his administration, and it is one of mine, too. Budget discussions can be very complex, but our focus is primarily on the spending of funding provided by the state; tuition and fees provided by students; revenue generated from our business operations, like service centers; and the overhead funding allocated to us from the research we conduct. Our progress in donor gifts and research funding – in the form of grants and contracts we receive from industries and government agencies – are separate categories that I will update you on later this year.
Voiland College has been overspending its annual budget provided by these sources of revenue over the past several years. In fiscal year 2016, the college spent over $4 million more than it took in. In fiscal year 2017, Voiland College overspent by $2.7 million.
Last year, we established several strategies to address that gap and meet our $1.99 million budget deficit spending goal for the 2018 fiscal year. I am happy to report Voiland College’s total fiscal year deficit spending was reduced to less than $900,000.
The main drivers in this reduction included:
- Increased revenues from higher undergraduate and graduate enrollment, especially our partnership with the INTO program;
- Leaving positions open when individuals left the college or retired;
- Departmental spending reductions;
- Spending reductions in our service centers and shops, especially the Composite Materials & Engineering Center, the Sports Science Laboratory, and the Voiland College Design and Fabrication Shop.
- Increased facilities and administration revenue generated from research expenditures, which set an all-time record for the college.
You may wonder where Voiland College allocates its budget. In fiscal year 2018:
- Approximately 85 percent of the total expenditures in Voiland College provided for the salaries and benefits of the college’s employees. These individuals perform the essential duties of instruction and administration (academic or research) for the college.
- Faculty start-up packages accounted for nearly 4 percent of the college’s expenditures.
- 2.5 percent was expensed to hourly wages that support student tutoring, the Frank Innovation Zone, research assistant appointments during the summer, and others.
- Supplies, travel, facilities and equipment purchases account for the remaining 8 percent of Voiland College’s spending.
For the next few years, as we work towards meeting our budget targets, you may see:
- Hiring in only special cases;
- Reduced college and school level support for travel and new initiatives;
- Appropriate allocation of TA budgets by the schools and college;
- An increase in average class sizes;
- Shifting resources to create programs to support student success;
- Other efforts focused on both increasing revenue and reducing expenditures to bring the spending of our state-supported funds closer to our budgetary allocation.
Moving forward, we will continue our progress to a balanced budget by the end of fiscal year 2019. To meet this goal, Voiland College will continue to focus on three main areas that will increase revenue, improve performance, and minimize impacts to our core services:
- Fostering Successful Graduates. Our efforts to recruit, develop, and retain successful undergraduates is a cornerstone to Voiland College’s success. I am also encouraged by the support that engineering receives statewide, from employers, the legislature and the federal delegation. WSU’s enrollment based budget model means that the more students we have, the more revenue we receive. I look forward to working with you to successfully grow recruiting programs like Future Cougars of Distinction and INTO, as well as expand our undergraduate services which provide opportunities and strong foundations of academic and career success for our students.
- Supporting Groundbreaking Research. Our growing research portfolio helps support WSU’s building infrastructure and graduate programs, and is a key element in enhancing our national reputation. Simply put, more research funding equals better facilities, more graduate students, and an enhanced impact on society. As we expand our research portfolio, I will continue to work with university leadership to advocate for more investment in our research facilities. I am also committed to ensuring that Voiland College provides personnel and structures that effectively support research success.
- Encouraging Philanthropy. As recent news has shown, Cougs give. Our alums serve as our ambassadors, and their success and philanthropy are the best forms of advertising we could ever ask for. Their enthusiasm and support are a testament to the caring each of you has provided during their time as students here and the kindness and generosity you continue to provide as they support us.
I fully acknowledge that implementing some of these initiatives has been challenging, and there is still a long way to go, I’ve appreciated everyone’s patience, dedication, and willingness to step in and offer their ideas as we continue this path of fiscal accountability.
As we settle into the new school year, I encourage each of you to share your thoughts on solving our budget challenge and any other issues that our college is facing as we move towards achieving WSU’s Drive to 25 goals. I look forward to our conversations and hope to see you at the President’s VCEA Town Hall Meeting on September 12 and the VCEA Dean’s Town Hall Meeting September 26.
Mary Rezac, Dean
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture