Faculty and Staff - February 26, 2021

Dear Colleagues:

In August I shared with you information on Winthrop’s financial outlook and now, six months later, I want to give you an update on our successes and continuing challenges as we work together to ensure the university can deliver to students the exemplary educational experience they and their families have come to expect.

You may recall in August that I shared how we were able to balance the 2019-20 budget with cuts we made on expenditures, travel and hiring; receipt of CARES Act funds; positive enrollment in Summer Session; and a board-approved transfer of nearly $1.3 million from our unrestricted net position. We also announced our furlough plan.

Fall Semester Impacts
In the fall semester we further reduced an already lean operating budget and continued our hiring freeze with few exceptions. As expected, our auxiliary revenues were down significantly, and our undergraduate enrollment mirrored what we saw happening at many schools across the country—we were down 6%. Graduate enrollment was a bright spot and up significantly (18%), but even that increase, because of revenue share with our fully online programs partner Wiley, didn’t increase revenue as additional undergraduates would have.

Current Revenue Picture
South Carolina legislators have not officially passed the FY2021 Appropriation Act, but rather the state has been operating under a continuing resolution.  This means Winthrop has been operating in this fiscal year with the same level of general appropriations as was received in 2020, yet there is also uncertainty whether the State may eventually decrease any of the annual appropriations for the current fiscal year. 

That reality means enrollment remains our top priority. For the spring, we are down slightly, but the good news is that we still hit our academic fee revenue projections because of our strong fall-to-spring retention. (You may recall that retention was going in the opposite direction the previous year, so this is an important turnaround that says much about your good work and the many efforts to care for our students during difficult times.) As expected, we are down again this semester in auxiliary revenues as we have more than 600 fewer students living on campus as last spring. You will recall we allowed housing waivers to accommodate fully on-line schedules and concerns over COVID-19.

Positive Developments
The second round of stimulus funds will bring in $8.4 million, $2.7 million of which will go to student grants. The latter I mentioned in my February 22 message to you. We are currently determining how we can use the $5.7 million institutional portion, understanding there will be more flexibility with this package than with the first stimulus. We are gathering data on all we’ve spent that we can reimburse to the institutional budget, as well as additional investments directly related to COVID-19 and/or lost revenues that the funds could cover. We also received $3 million from SC Cares which went to reimburse COVID-19-related costs for technology, specialized cleaning, physical distancing measures, critical staffing, and student fee adjustments. In addition, our investments in technology over the last year leave us better prepared if we ever need to go back to fully remote learning. All of these sources of funds will help us get through this fiscal year, and we deeply appreciate receiving them.

Furloughs Continuing, Voluntary Separation an Option for Some Faculty
The university continues to realize savings from the furlough plan that began in September 2020 and runs through the end of June 2021. The plan is on schedule to generate the $3 million that we targeted. We also expect additional savings next budget year as we trim our workforce through a voluntary separation plan that was recently approved by the state and in which eligible faculty members are currently weighing their participation. These cost-saving measures will hopefully help us avoid additional furloughs and/or a Reduction in Force (RIF) in the 2021-22 budget year.

That last goal, of course, is why all of our efforts have been undertaken. Getting this institution on solid ground financially post-pandemic will not be easy or quick, but in the long term, it will help us save jobs, fund future compensation initiatives, and keep our university the unique and wonderful place that we know it to be.  I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible during the Town Hall at 11 a.m. on March 2 where we will talk more about these and other topics.

Thank you for all the Winthrop spirit you are exhibiting as we deliver an outstanding student-centered experience for our students.


George W. Hynd

Interim President