Enrollment and Budget Update

October 14, 2009


In earlier budget updates, I told you that you would hear from me in October about enrollment and budget issues. I had hoped by now to be able to provide you with firm information, but enough uncertainty remains that I cannot do so. What I can do is provide you with the information we have (figures below) and discuss the factors affecting our financial outlook.

Thanks to the efforts of many people in admissions, public relations, financial aid, and student affairs, and to the excellent programming across campus, our undergraduate population remains strong. This year has yielded the second highest number of undergraduate applications in PSU history, second only to last year’s record numbers. Undergraduate enrollment, however, declined by 39 students, an anticipated decline, with slightly more first-time resident students and slightly fewer first-time non-resident students, as more students here and across the country chose to attend school in their home states. With shifting demographics and a troubled economy, this, too, was expected. As those of the faculty who teach in the graduate program know, graduate courses are different in the timing of terms than undergraduate courses. As a result, although current indicators suggest graduate enrollments will be steady, and summer graduate enrollments were up, the figures we have for graduate enrollment are not yet exact.

Last spring, we budgeted conservatively, knowing that the economy would impact students and families, and we increased financial aid by 12%. Because we anticipated and planned for that impact, we are on track with our budget projections, and I am grateful to all those who have participated in the planning and budgeting processes. This assumes that there are no changes from the norm in our retention between autumn and spring semesters.

There are a number of other uncertainties. Most people are aware that state government revenue is a concern, with state revenue projections below the expectations that were in place when the budget was passed last summer. A lawsuit also is pending before the New Hampshire Supreme Court on whether the medical malpractice fund known as the Joint Underwriting Fund can be used in balancing the state budget. Depending on the outcome of that decision, some people are suggesting that legislators might meet in special session later this month or even into January to reconsider the budget. Finally, as I told you earlier this summer, our state appropriation was held level through the addition of federal stimulus dollars, and the state’s acceptance of those dollars required stable education funding, but there have been challenges in other states to those national guidelines. As a result of these continued uncertainties, our Board of Trustees, including the campus and system leaders, thought it prudent to delay any discussion of salary increases until the February 2010 meeting. In fact, the USNH System Office is eliminating 10 positions over the next 18 months in an effort to avoid increased charges to the system’s four institutions. At this time, though vacancies are being carefully assessed, we do not anticipate lay-offs on our campus.

Many of you are making personal financial decisions that would be easier if your information were more complete right now. We know that, and I appreciate your understanding. All of us are trying to be as thoughtful and careful as we can, both in looking at the campus budget and in containing costs. We will as a campus work through this difficult economic time collaboratively, and the Planning and Budgeting Leadership Group and the Enrollment Management Advisory Group are already at work.

Between now and mid-February, should anything change, I will as always inform you.

Sara Jayne Steen