Current as of February 24, 2011
Late last evening, the S.C. House Ways and Means Committee released its recommendations for the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and those recommendations were adopted by the full committee shortly after noon today. In this plan, Winthrop’s reduction in state support would be $780,715 – about 6 percent. The range of reductions for state institutions was 5-8 percent, depending in part upon our level of in-state enrollment and our six-year graduation rate. Winthrop performs well on both those indicators.
Keep in mind this would not be the only funding loss for Winthrop in the year ahead, however. Federal stimulus funding also expires on June 30, and that $3.4 million is not being replaced by the State. In addition, there are a number of mandated annualizations that must be funded. Altogether, that means we will be working over the months ahead on a plan to align our spending and anticipated revenues across a difference of nearly $6 million.
While the Ways and Means Committee recommended no bond bill this year, it does allocate some deferred maintenance funds to the institutions from state capital reserves. If that plan survives, Winthrop would receive about $1.1 million designated for that purpose.
Please know that this is simply the first mile marker in the long road toward state budget approval. The full House will take up the budget in March and then send its approved version to the Senate. The Senate will write its own budget, and a conference committee generally works out differences near the end of the session, which typically extends into June. So Winthrop is many weeks away from having a finalized appropriation around which to build our own spending plan, and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees regarding tuition and fees for the next academic year.
As we know from previous years, steady declines in state funding means Winthrop’s progress relies more and more on enrollment, so all the good work being done by everyone on campus to support the leadership of University Advancement in the student recruitment realm is greatly appreciated.
As you may have seen in news reports today, our work on the public sector side extends beyond the General Assembly. University presidents had a second productive meeting with Governor Nikki Haley this week, working to define an accountability funding formula that would govern allocations of any new money available for higher education long-term. The “measureables” the governor is interested in emphasizing include in-state enrollment, service to under-served segments of the population, and placement of graduates in jobs. Winthrop performs well in these general areas, and we will be following closely what nuances may become a part of the measureables.
On a separate front, Winthrop also is working with various federal officials to make them aware of the many areas of good work going on at Winthrop with the support of federal grants. Winthrop currently has 28 federal grants in place – many of them multi-year– totaling more than $22 million. Budget reductions pending on Capitol Hill could affect some of those programs in the current year, while others could be impacted in the new federal fiscal year, which begins October 1.
Over the past weekend, our Board of Trustees spent considerable time getting to know these many vectors and how they could impact Winthrop individually and collectively. During their three-day on-campus retreat, we also briefed them on progress to date in the Readiness Winthrop process, in which every aspect of university operations is being reviewed. From this work, Winthrop is crafting a plan for how we can best meet the changing needs of 21st century students in the economic circumstances of the post-Great Recession “new normal.”
During March, I will be meeting with the Faculty Committee on University Priorities to update that group on Readiness Winthrop progress as well. By late April, when we have a clearer picture of the state budget emerging from Columbia, I intend to have a general meeting with all employees – similar to last year’s Readiness Winthrop launch – to provide you with a personal Readiness Winthrop update, prior to our concluding this academic year.
Meanwhile, of course, I will continue to keep you updated by e-mail on key budget process developments as warranted.
As I have said often to various audiences this year, these are precarious and uncharted times for public higher education all across America. Yet I also am confident that adjusting to changing times is very much a part of Winthrop’s DNA, as we have demonstrated often over our 125-year history. Each of you is very much a part of that tradition, and the Board of Trustees wanted me to convey their individual and collective thanks for all you are doing for Winthrop in these challenging times. To their thanks, please let me add my own as well.