February/March 2014

March 12th, 2014 by Jennifer

Provost Report for the Month of February and March 2014

Julie Bernier, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

2015 Budget Planning

FY2015 may well be the most challenging budget year we’ve faced in nearly a decade.  This is not because we have such large reductions to make, we only need to reduce the budget by a little over $2 mil, about 2% of the budget.  The reason this is the most challenging is that it follows several years of sustained reductions.  To put it simply, we’ve made all the easy cuts already, and now we are faced with making reductions yet again.  Please refer to VP Taksar’s memo and President Steen’s March report both issued today for more details about the budget situation.   We will plan to have an open campus meeting over the next several weeks to discuss these issues in greater detail.  Date, time and location will be forthcoming.  In the meantime, we felt it was important to get this information out to campus now.

This is not a short term issue.  The demographics of K-­‐12 school children in New England show continued declines in “college-­‐goers” through the next decade.  This is our new normal and we must adapt. We have some longer-­‐term strategies in place and some shorter term financial decisions to balance the budget.  First, the strategies:

  • Revisions in Admissions process and Financial Aid awarding using sophisticated data analysis and tracking, the use of a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system to better track and communicate with potential and current students, and financial aid leveraging will improve our applications and conversion (to admits) rate.
  • Transfer articulation-­‐  the Community Colleges are seeing record enrollments.  We have been working to create 2+2s, dual admission, and creating stronger partnerships with the Community College System of New Hampshire.
    • We need to continue to improve our systems and processes, and review how and what we accept for transfer to make transfer more seamless.  This will require our being more flexible in how we accept credits.
  • National and International recruiting-­‐  there are parts of the world and areas in the country that have the opposite demographics than we are facing in New England and in much of the U.S. These are qualified students looking for a place to earn a bachelor’s degree. We will expand in some areas within the U.S. and are working in several international markets with partners to increase the market share of international students coming to PSU for a university degree.
  • Online offerings-­‐ at both the undergraduate and graduate level we have been expanding our online offerings.  Last year we offered 500 online and hybrid courses serving over 5,000 students.  Some are “online students.” Many are traditional students trying to balance work and family while attending the University.  Our online courses have allowed many to stay in school and continue working toward their degree.  The MBA has been so successful with online delivery that almost all MBA students are earning their degrees online (by choice).
  • Student Success and Retention-­‐  PSU’s first to second year retention rate slipped to 72% down from 78% about 5 years ago.  PSU’s comparator institutions have a retention rate closer to 80% indicating that our goal of 81% is not out of reach.  Two task forces have been charged, the First Year Experience task force and the Student Success task force. Both of these groups will be making recommendations aimed at helping students to be successful, return to PSU and complete their degrees in four years.
    • When these task forces come forward with recommendations to the campus, we really need to support them. We cannot afford to dig heals in, resist change, or keep the status quo. Higher Education is changing.  Earning a bachelor’s degree places a significant strain on families unlike anything most of us experienced as undergraduates.  Students and families should expect that students can and will earn a degree in four years and that they are prepared to search for gainful employment at the end of that four years, no matter what their degree.  Whether the recommendations are for providing greater support services, a safety net, early warning systems (including 6-­‐week grades), career advising, personal coaching, or creating stronger connections to employers, we should support the task forces as the most knowledgeable people on our campuses about how to help our students be successful.
  • New programs-­‐ We must continue to look at what students seek and what the state of New Hampshire needs.  Strategic curricular decisions will allow us to attract students that would not otherwise apply to PSU through the creation of new programs.
Additional medium-­‐term strategies
  • 4-­‐credit curriculum-­‐ I am going to ask that the faculty look seriously once again at a 4-­‐credit curriculum.  I know doing so is a lot of work; however, I see the following benefits:
    • A 4-­‐credit curriculum ….
      • …would mean that faculty would teach 3 courses each term.  This would mean the teaching load would be a 3/3 for everyone.   Conservatively this would save $500,000 annually.
      • …would mean that teaching lecturers get paid for 4 credits instead of 3 for every course they teach, making travel to PSU to teach more worthwhile.  This really was highlighted in a recent email communication with a potential teaching lecturer who said she gets paid $4,000 to teach this same course at another college, why are we only paying $3,000?The answer was that at the other college it is a 4 credit course.
      • …would mean that students only take 4 courses per term instead of 5.  Surely this would have a positive impact on student success, completion, grades, graduation rate?
      • …would mean that every program including general education would be reviewed and content revised. Programs would be forced to step back and look critically and carefully at learning outcomes and determine what is most important.
    • Class size-­‐ I’ve asked the chairs to look carefully at scheduling and to begin to schedule carefully in a way that moves our average class size from 20 to 25.  If we could do this one simple thing, it would save approximately $1 mil annually.  These savings would give us the breathing room to fund strategic initiatives, new faculty lines or salary increases.  This should be a strategy that we move toward.

As you can see, several ongoing initiatives are in place and more are planned but these strategies take time.  In the meantime, we have fewer students and thus a lower financial revenue base.  For budget planning, this means the operating budget must be reduced to be in balance.

For our part, Academic Affairs must find $1.2 mil in reductions for FY15.  The following strategies have been identified as reductions.

  • Faculty Vacancy pool-­‐ We will reduce the faculty vacancy pool by $500,000.  This is the pool of funds created when faculty take the transition to retirement or retire after a long career and we hire a new assistant professor. These are the funds we use to create new faculty lines.  For the next couple years, this will make the creation of new faculty lines very difficult except when tied to growth areas resulting in new enrollment revenues that support the costs of program operations and salaries.
  • Course Scheduling-­‐  I asked department chairs to review the Fall course schedule, to be as efficient as possible.  Chairs reviewed courses that are not required in the major or do not fill a general education requirement as possible courses for cancellation or consolidation.  This will save approximately $180,000.
  • COGS And DOCS reductions-­‐ I’ve asked both the College of Graduate Studies and the Division of Online and Continuing Studies to make reductions in their budgets. This may mean reduced funding from those areas.
  • Separation Incentive-­‐ As outlined in President Steen’s report and in the memo from Director of Human Resources, Elaine Doell, we are offering a separation incentive plan (SIP), now called a voluntary incentive separation plan (ISP) to both faculty and staff.  These incentive plans are offered for one reason, as a way for the institution to reduce its costs.  If anyone has been thinking seriously about retirement, from a strictly financial perspective, taking the ISP now would greatly assist the University in meeting its budgetary goals.  The University is counting on people taking advantage of the ISP in order to balance the budget for FY15.
  • Reorganization and reductions-­‐ Depending on the savings realized through the ISP, I will be looking carefully at all operations within academic affairs for possible reorganizations that will allow cost savings.
These reduction strategies do not mean we won’t be investing in new initiatives. We will be.  We must continue to move forward and invest in our future.  All the more reason to make the difficult decisions so that we can put resources where they will have the greatest impact. In particular, we must invest in areas that will bring new revenues and increased enrollments.

Holding classes on days of inclement weather
I’ve been asked to clarify the expectations regarding holding classes on days of inclement weather.

If the University issues a statement of curtailed operations, classes shall NOT be held and are officially cancelled during the time of curtailment.  Faculty members MAY choose to contact students with alternate assignments that do not require students coming to campus. Students should look for messages from their faculty indicating any work assignments that should be done in lieu of class.

If classes have not been cancelled by the University, or we have re-­‐opened following curtailed operations, the expectation is that all classes WILL be “held.”  In the case of Friday for example, we would expect that students would begin to attend class at 10:00 am and beyond.  With that said, everyone’s safety is of primary concern.  As each of our announcements indicate, we expect that students faculty and staff will make the best decision for their situation depending on the location from which they must drive.

In the case where a faculty member cannot make it to campus due to driving conditions, the expectation is they will make alternate arrangements for class either by having someone else cover or through the use of Moodle for alternate course work and assignments.  Classes shall not simply be “cancelled.”   We have a robust electronic learning management system in Moodle.  The Learning Technologies and Online Education (LTOE) staff stand ready to assist faculty who need assistance in learning to utilize this system effectively.  If a face to face class will be cancelled and online assignment or activities will be assigned instead, faculty shall communicate through Moodle immediately with students to inform them that a face to face meeting will not take place.  While we have thousands of students that live on campus or within a short distance of campus, we also have a fair number of commuting students who would appreciate knowing that they do not need to drive to campus.

Likewise, if students feel it is unsafe for them to make the commute, they too should immediately communicate with their faculty members and faculty should work to accommodate the students.

2014 Commencement location

As President Steen mentioned in her report, we will be breaking ground on the next phase of ALLWell. Initially we thought an outside Commencement would not be possible.  Some changes in the construction timeline along with hearing strong sentiments from the Senior class have meant that we will be holding Commencement in our traditional location on Currier Field with indoor locations planned in the event of inclement weather.  Commencement for undergraduate and graduate students will begin at 10:00 am on Currier field or, in the event of inclement weather, at the following locations:

PE Center

Graduate and Undergraduate students from the following departments:

  • Art
  • Atmospheric Science & Chemistry
  • Biological Sciences
  • Communication Media Studies
  • Computer Science
  • English
  • Environmental Science & Policy
  • History, Philosophy, and Social Studies Education
  • Humanities and Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Mathematics
  • Music Theatre & Dance
  • Psychology
  • Social Science

HUB Courtroom

Graduate and Undergraduate students from the following departments:

  • Counselor Ed and School Psychology
  • Early Childhood Studies
  • Elementary Education & Childhood Studies
  • Educational Leadership, Learning and Curriculum
  • Health & Human Performance

Ice Arena

Graduate and Undergraduate Students in the

  • College of Business Administration

Hanaway Theater, Silver Center

Undergraduate students in:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Nursing
  • Social Work

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