Budget Message to Campus

July 7, 2009


Let me begin by thanking you for your good work with regard to budget issues.  People across campus have worked exceedingly hard to contain costs and to return dollars wherever possible, and we are projecting a balanced year-end, in spite of current economic challenges.   Thank you for pulling together as a team.

Some of the uncertainties I discussed with you earlier this spring and summer have been resolved.  As you know, Governor Lynch and the state legislature concurred on a budget for the next biennium.  We are grateful that they agreed to use federal stimulus dollars to supplement state dollars in order to keep funding level for USNH.  Our state appropriation, which is approximately 14% of our overall budget, will be at the rate of the previous two years, and in this economy that level funding reflects a significant commitment to public higher education.

The Board of Trustees met here on campus soon afterward, at the end of June, and confirmed the tuition increase for PSU that we had anticipated, 6% for New Hampshire residents and 5% for non-residents.  People across campus, including our student leadership, worked to keep room-and-board  and fees to a minimum, with the result that PSU’s increase in cost of attendance for in-state students is 4.8%, the lowest increase of the three residential campuses in the system.   (Although there will be an increase in tuition, you should know that, as part of financial aid for NH residents, USNH institutions meet the gap between the “expected family contribution” and the cost of attendance.)

Our budget for 2009-2010 includes measures to contain costs and enhance revenues.  Our strategy has been to put people first, to hold down increases in tuition and fees for our students and their families and to maintain a stable work environment for faculty and staff.  We have slowed hires and reclassifications, made reallocations, and reduced non-personnel operating accounts by 2%.  Some reductions to balance our budget include one-time dollars, as opposed to base decreases, which means that we believe that the economy will begin to improve next year.  We have increased undergraduate financial aid by approximately 12% in order to help students and their families, and we have drawn on recommendations from the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group to allow us to continue to move forward on our strategic plan in a focused way.

Your participation in PSU-great-ideas@plymouth.edu has been significant to members of the cabinet.  You have submitted over 75 ideas, some of which are in progress now, and others of which are longer-term ideas that will be phased in over time.  Some will save money for students.  For example, materials that students were leaving this spring, from furniture to coffee makers, have been collected from residence halls and off-campus apartments and will be recycled by being resold at low cost to incoming students, with proceeds to the Community Closet.  Another idea that was submitted, and actually was in progress, was the conversion to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the shuttle pool.  You will see the results on campus.

The primary uncertainty that remains, however, is our fall enrollment, and student tuition is approximately 70% of our budget.  Although we are cautiously optimistic about our current enrollment numbers, much can happen across the rest of the summer.  We will not know until 30 days after registration (R+30) exactly what our enrollment will be, and whether the balance of resident and non-resident students matches our budget projections, by which time the academic year will be well under way.  As a result, the members of the cabinet and I cannot make any statement about salary increases for next year until later in the autumn semester, after our enrollment numbers are certain.  Again, we are trying to be good and careful stewards for us all.

The cabinet and I appreciate your ideas and support as we work through this difficult economic time together.  Should anything change, I will let you know.  For the moment, this is the best information I can provide.

Finally, through your responses to the Chronicle of Higher Education survey, Plymouth State University today was named to the list of Great Colleges to Work For.  Among medium-sized institutions across the country, PSU placed among the top 10 in 8 categories, including collaborative governance, satisfaction with benefits, work/life balance, and respect and appreciation.  I am grateful that we have such a campus climate; with your continued participation, we will maintain and enhance it.

All best,
Sara Jayne

Sara Jayne Steen
Plymouth State University
MSC #1, 17 High St.
Plymouth, NH 03264
(603) 535-2210