We will soon begin the sixth week of the semester and it is finally starting to feel like fall. I am teaching a Freshman Seminar and it is great to be back in the classroom and hear students’ perspectives on UTC, college, and life in general.
Everyone at UTC deserves a resounding CONGRATULATIONS and pat on the back: Our Spring 2014 six-year graduation rate improved three percent to 40 percent! In addition, first to second year retention increased to 70 percent, a 1 percent increase over 2012-2013. This accomplishment is the result of a team effort and the entire campus should be proud. Next year we hope to see even stronger increases as we continue to focus on student success.
Higher education is facing a time of change and challenges. It is unlikely that state funding for higher education will return to the levels seen prior to the economic downturn in 2008. In spite of what is going on around us, our campus is doing well and we are positioned to meet the challenges coming our way.
We are in the process of developing a new strategic plan that will focus on students, excellence and connections to our community. A recent UT-System analysis shows that given the expectations for tuition increases and state funding, we can anticipate a budget shortfall that will gradually increase to over $11.5 million by 2025. With this in mind we have begun a campus-wide discussion regarding our budget and how we create the financial flexibility to implement our plan. Our analysis has led us to focus on a budget reallocation process that will free up 4-5 percent of our base budget ($5-6 million).
Our first steps are to look at how we can operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. We need to examine what things we can stop doing and redirect funds to high priority areas. At the UTC Full Faculty meeting on Tuesday, September 16th, I presented a three-phase framework for a reexamination of our budget. The slides used for the presentation are available at: http://www.utc.edu/business-financial-affairs/.
The first phase of the process will be a review involving colleges and units, a campus-wide organizational appraisal committee, and a technology committee. After the phase-one review, all budget recommendations will be examined and evaluated by the University Planning and Resources Advisory Council (UPRAC). Finally, UPRAC will submit the phase-two recommendations to my office for action in the third and final phase of the process. Over the next four weeks, we will seek campus input on this three-phase process, the membership of the committees, the reallocation goal, and the timeline. We anticipate the entire process to conclude by mid to late March 2015.
Budget discussions naturally make people apprehensive, but we are not facing a crisis, we are preparing for the change that we know is coming. I want to stress that this will be a transparent and inclusive process. I hope every member of the UTC community will participate. To facilitate our efforts, a website has been setup where you may send questions or comments: http://www.utc.edu/business-financial-affairs/budget-chatt.php.
The budget issues before us are not a negative reflection on UTC’s health as a university; rather they represent a transitional period for all of higher education. Standing still is not an option for us as a campus. Change is coming, but if any university is well-positioned for the future, it is UTC. This campus will grow stronger and continue to transform the lives of our students and add value to our community. We will build on our past success to create an even greater future.