Our Discussion Continues …
Welcome to the Your Voice, Our Future blog. Over the coming weeks, we will be adding posts that continue the conversations taking place at our town hall meetings, drawing upon the expertise of the town hall panelists and others. You and other members of our community will then have an opportunity to comment on those postings and to add your voice to the conversation as we all work together to help the College move forward during these very difficult and challenging economic times.
As a first posting to the blog, I want to take an opportunity to expand upon my answer to one of our young alumni in Boston regarding the budget cuts that we are instituting on campus. As you may recall from other notes I have issued to our community about these steps, they are a necessary response to the significant reduction in revenues that we have experienced as a result of the larger downturn in our economy. (For more on this topic you can go to the economic challenge page on Skidmore’s Web site.)
By early next year, we will have eliminated more than $10 million in expenditures from our annual operating budget. Most of these have come through reductions in staff and reduced investment in our physical plant. We have also been able to realize savings through the good work of many on campus to reduce energy costs and streamline various operations ranging from shifting more communications from print to electronic format and reducing the use of our dining and catering staffs for campus events.
The young alumna’s question – and very legitimate concern – was how we could effect these reductions without a significant impact not only on the curricular but also on the co-curricular programs that were such an integral and enriching element of her experience. The answer is, in fact, many answers. That is to say, we are now expecting, if you will, a much higher “return on investment” from all of our programs and searching harder than ever to identify the point at which we have invested enough to achieve the goals we have outlined for those programs. Let me offer just three different examples:
Example 1. One major decision point was the elimination of our longstanding UWW program. This had been a very important part of the Skidmore story for nearly four decades, and we remain proud of the many wonderful students who earned their degrees through this program and the faculty and staff who have worked so hard over the years to deliver it. Despite its many achievements, however, we believed we could no longer dedicate the resources needed to offer the program at the level that would meet the standard of a true “Skidmore” education–particularly at a moment in time when we must dedicate a higher proportion of those resources to our core mission of educating fulltime, residential students.
Example 2. We have shifted the replacement cycle on most College-owned computers from four years to five. Again, this should not impact the end user (and thereby diminish in some significant manner the experience for our students) but will save us a considerable amount each year in equipment purchases.
Example 3. We have just increased the enrollment caps for the first-year seminars from 15 to 16. Our sense is that this shift will not appreciably affect the experience for any one student but it saves us from having to offer three additional seminars.
There are, literally, hundreds of other decisions, large and small, that we have made over the past months, to help us achieve our goal. Some, such as those noted above, we can continue with little or no impact on the core educational experience for our students. Others, however, such as the salary freeze that we have instituted for this year and, we anticipate, for next, can only be viewed as temporary solutions as we wait for what we are projecting will be an eventual return to at least modest growth in the income we earn from our endowment and other sources.
We remain open to other thoughts and ideas to help us through this challenging period. Our goal is to increase the value of a Skidmore education and to make certain that we remain a viable option for all deserving students, regardless of their financial means. Your continued input and support will be critical to our success in achieving that goal.
Philip A. Glotzbach is president of Skidmore College.