Current as of September 1, 2011
As Labor Day approaches, and public policy spotlights begin to turn back to Washington, I wanted to give you an overview of the economic situation as it applies to higher education, both nationally and closer to home.
As you may have seen in national media, hurricane and flooding damage along the eastern seaboard is creating a greater demand for federal disaster aid than has been budgeted. Some Congressional leaders are calling for any increases in disaster support for impacted communities and citizens to be offset by cuts in other areas of federal funding. These cuts would be in addition to the reductions already in effect, as well as on top of those that could be imposed if forthcoming recommendations by a special committee working on federal deficit reduction eventually are adopted. This means additional reductions to federal funding remain quite possible – including both cutbacks in programs that support our students directly, as well as reductions to existing and future federal grant support to Winthrop.
We continue in communication with our federal officials on these issues, and will make sure they are updated about the impacts on Winthrop of any recommendations put forth for consideration in Washington in the months ahead.
Closer to home, a variety of sources in Columbia indicate that state revenue collections have increased in recent months, and some are going so far as to indicate cautiously that mid-year reductions to already bare-bone state appropriations now seem to unlikely to be necessary. That hopeful prediction, however, is quickly followed by warnings that expectation of even a modest appropriation increase for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 is unwarranted, given that Medicaid costs to state government are continuing to increase faster than revenue growth. State legislators will have to deal with those issues as they begin the appropriations process in January. Governor Nikki Haley indicates her administration is preparing a state budget recommendation for the next fiscal year, and likely will release it in January. Since this will be her first budget proposal since taking office last January, it remains to be seen how her recommendations will be received by lawmakers.
At Winthrop, the largest portion of our annual revenue continues to come from tuition and fees. We still are awaiting the start of some off-campus classes that begin later in the Fall to be able to finalize our enrollment numbers and the related tuition/fee revenue projections. Once those numbers are solid, Winthrop will be able to finalize its budget plan for the remainder of this fiscal year. In the meantime, we will continue to keep all our best practices for efficiency and cost savings in place, while concurrently working to be sure that we deliver the quality and value that Winthrop students and parents have come to expect.
Meanwhile, our opening week of classes went remarkably well, and the campus already seems to have found the cadence of Fall semester. It takes an extraordinary level of cooperation across divisions to be ready for the arrival of our students each year, and I thank all of you for your contributions to the process of getting everyone launched so successfully. It cannot be said too often over the course of our work together: Thank you for all you do for Winthrop University.