In an address to Fort Hays State University faculty, staff and student leaders on Tuesday afternoon, President Edward H. Hammond warned that the economic crisis was likely to continue through the year 2012 but expressed optimism that the university could meet the challenge.
"We have to stop meeting like this," he quipped before providing a detailed review of the economic troubles that have reduced state funding for FHSU by $4,651,202 over the past year. "A year ago we met to discuss the phenomenon of an economic tsunami that was hitting the state and requiring the Legislature to make cuts. As I feared, we are in this economic crisis for a lot longer than a lot of people want to believe."
Noting that "we are in a marathon, not a sprint," the president said the principles and strategies that had carried the university through the first year of the economic crisis would serve it well as the crisis continued. He said FHSU needs to be a leader as Kansans educate our way to a better economy.
"We have dealt with this better than any other school, and that's because of you," he added, praising the members of the FHSU family for participating in the process by taking on more work and offering innovative ideas.
"Difficult times need new ideas," he said. "We don't have all the ideas." He said the administration would continue to keep everyone informed through Budget Bulletins and open forums and would pursue helpful ideas that faculty and staff submit on the university's budget Web site.
President Hammond said the university would absorb the latest allotment of about $100,000 that was announced on the Monday before Thanksgiving by Gov. Mark Parkinson by using one-time strategic planning money that normally would fund new programs and initiatives. Together with an earlier allotment, state funding for FHSU has been reduced by $784,000, or 3 percent, since the current fiscal year began in July. The president also announced other "action decisions" to cope with the ongoing crisis:
· Funding only a limited number of action plans in the strategic planning process in order to retain a reserve fund to protect the university's flexibility;
· Delaying release of the remaining 40 percent of operating funds for offices and academic departments, which normally are released in early January, until Feb. 1; and
· Authorizing departments to carry funds forward into the 2011 fiscal year.
He said the planning principles the university had followed thus far would guide decisions in putting together the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2010. Those principles include serving students, keeping costs down for students, protecting faculty and staff, asking people to do more, and minimizing the economic impact on Ellis County.
"We asked people to step up and do more and, boy, did you do more," he said. "Everybody at the university has stepped up to try to be more efficient."
In addition, he said the university would continue to follow its four-step strategy for dealing with the funding cuts:
· Operational efficiencies;
· Enrollment growth;
· An additional budget cut of about 2 percent; and
· Tuition increases.
The president pointed to the success of the four-part strategy to date. "We got about a half-million dollars in efficiencies, we increased our revenue by about $1 million through growth, we made operational cuts of about $1.5 million, and we increased revenue by about $1.5 from an increase in tuition," he said, noting that FHSU remained the only university in the region with tuition of less than $100 per credit hour.
"We are in an international brain race," President Hammond concluded. "We need to tell everyone who will listen that FHSU is an important growth industry for Kansas. Kansans need to educate our way to a better economy. We need to expand the state's 'talent dividend' by growing enrollments, expanding the graduation rate and producing growth in the state economy by providing more educated citizens."