On November 16, 2016, President Gerard Clancy held a forum titled “TU: A Force For Good” for all TU staff and faculty concerning the recent budget crisis and how the university plans to move forward. According to an article by The Frontier, TU is currently facing a $25 million deficit. As a result, the Board of Trustees made money-saving decisions, the most drastic of which were the removal of retirement benefits and the decision to let 43 university employees go.
As university employees were arguably the most affected by the budget cuts, Clancy started the discussion off by directly addressing the group’s most pressing questions.
As a result of the budget deficit, all employees were affected by the loss of university-provided retirement benefits. Clancy addressed this first, saying that the board was working on a proposal to bring partial retirement benefits back to all employees by July.
According to The Frontier, Clancy sent a university-wide email to all employees on December 14, saying that “Beginning in July 2017, the university will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for your retirement, up to 4.5 percent contribution from the university and 4.5 percent contribution from the employee…I know this does not bring us back to where we were, but it is a start in the right direction.”
Clancy stated that the board was looking into using the university’s endowment of more than $1 million to aid in the budget crisis. He also confirmed that they would be making a few strategic hires in the future to help grow programs that would lift the university out of the budget deficit.
“The administration and the deans made a lot of strong points to the board as we went forward that we cannot cut our way to success here. We have to grow,” he asserted. “It is not that we are insensitive to what has already happened as far as some people’s positions, but we have some positions that we need to add in the future to be able to grow.”
After addressing employees’ most pressing questions, Clancy praised TU for what it does well, explained the factors that led to the budget crisis and presented the university’s approach to moving through the tough times.
Clancy explained that a number of factors added up to result in the current deficit. Among these factors were a shift in demographics — he said that the baby boomers’ children have already gone through college and that there are 4 percent fewer 18-26-year-olds in the nation, meaning that fewer young adults are enrolling in universities across the nation. Energy prices and the slow comeback of law jobs have also affected previously popular TU programs, and international student enrollment has gone down, possibly due to political factors.
Clancy also explained that the TU endowment dropped by 4 percent while operating costs remained the same. In recent years, TU has had to spend more in order to ensure a safe and compliant campus.This includes hiring more security, installing cameras and similar efforts.
Enrollment also played a role in the budget crisis — while the number of applicants and admitted students has increased in recent years, the number of enrolled students has not, leaving dorms empty. Despite increases in tuition, TU’s generous amount of financial aid means that the university hasn’t seen a significant increase in tuition revenue.
The Frontier also notes that “an aggressive plan to add 1 million square feet of new facilities to the campus — some not fully funded — combined with increased spending on athletics, an expanded administrative staff and rising operations costs all contributed to the deficit.”
In choosing where to make cuts, Clancy noted that the board considered long-term stability, maintaining the student experience, maintaining academics and minimizing TU’s reputational risk as major factors.
Clancy presented the solution for TU’s budget issues in a three-phase proposal. Phase I, lasting 12-36 months, involves improvements in revenues and costs. Phase II will focus on market-driven research, intending to improve enrollment and retention levels and explore alternate revenue sources in order to get TU back on its feet for the long-term.
Phase III will focus on long-term growth and envisioning the next generation of TU. Clancy mentioned that university students are increasingly diverse, with more minority students (especially Hispanic students) and more first-generation college applicants every year. Phase III would hopefully encourage this diversity and would also focus on the creation and growth of new types of majors and programs focused on the current job market.
While most of the forum focused on the budget crisis, Clancy did take some time to highlight what TU has done well in the past. He praised TU’s faculty-student engagement, well-rounded liberal arts curriculum, and the university’s growth in thriving areas such as engineering, computer sciences and health science.
Clancy emphasized that the solution to the crisis was taking the current system and reworking it to be more efficient and effective. “I’ve got experience in healthcare in looking at how certain things are designed and trying to make it work better,” he said. “That’s what I’m gonna look at here.” The forum’s title, “TU: A Force For Good,” was ultimately intended to bring the focus back to TU’s strength moving forward.