Current as of March 21, 2011
It is good to have everyone back on campus from Spring Break, taking on what is always a fast-paced homestretch for the academic year.
As is often the case, it was during Winthrop’s Spring Break week that the S.C. House of Representatives finalized its version of a budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1. In addition, the governor’s Board of Economic Advisers (BEA) met late last week, and provided its assessment of trends in collection of the revenues that fund state operations and services.
The plan approved by the House reduces Winthrop’s state support by $780,715 – about 6 percent. The range of reductions for state institutions was 5-8 percent, depending in part upon respective institutional levels of in-state enrollment and six-year graduation rate. Winthrop performs well on both those indicators.
Keep in mind this will 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 House recommended no bond bill this year, it did allocate some deferred maintenance funds to the institutions from state capital reserves. If that plan survives the full budget process, Winthrop would receive about $1.1 million designated for that purpose.
The Senate has begun writing its own budget, and a conference committee generally works out differences near the end of the session, which historically can extend 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.
Meanwhile, BEA revenue reports showed positive trend lines compared to the past 2-3 years, but long-term growth rates are modest at best: 1.0 percent for FY 12 and 2.0 percent for FY 13, before declining to 1.5 percent. Over the next decade, growth is not expected to top 2.0 percent.
Because such figures do not suggest a turn-around in state funding in the near term, Winthrop’s progress continues to rely on how we adjust ourselves to the “new normal” of the 21st century. That is why in April of last year, we initiated a process called “Readiness Winthrop” to review and reflect about how we best can make these adjustments. Later this week, I will be meeting with members of the Faculty Committee on University Priorities to update them on Readiness Winthrop progress in such areas as student retention and recruitment.
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, I will continue to keep you updated by e-mail on key budget process developments as warranted.
This time of year is always a particularly rewarding one in campus communities – a time when our students are demonstrating their personal growth and academic achievement in myriad ways that remind us of the purpose of our work together. As always, thank you for all you do individually and collectively to keep Winthrop University the special learning community that it is.