In a nod to NC State’s optimistic mantra, “Think and Do,” Chancellor Randy Woodson took center stage at the general faculty meeting on Tuesday to solicit bold ideas for keeping the university’s strategic plan on track. If they can think up solutions to some weighty challenges, Woodson said, he’ll do his best to turn ideas into reality.
“This is the challenge we have,” he said. “How do we continue to make strategic investments in key areas at a time when we’re treading water financially?”
To encourage brainstorming across campus, he unveiled a website (requires Unity ID) where faculty and staff can suggest ways to either save money or generate new revenue. Ideas are welcome in areas ranging from process improvements and program changes to the reallocation of resources and the identification of new investment areas.
Plan Paying Off
NC State’s 10-year strategic plan, approved in 2011, has already paid big dividends by focusing on student success, faculty growth and organizational excellence. The quality of incoming freshmen is at a record level, graduation and first-year retention rates are up, new interdisciplinary faculty teams have been recruited and the university’s academic reputation is rising.
It’s notable, Woodson said, that these gains have come during some of the toughest budget cycles in the university’s history. In the past decade, state support for the university has dropped by $163 million in recurring – or permanent – funds. State appropriations are still substantial, making up 35 percent of the total budget. But the reductions have underscored the importance of budget planning.
“We need to think carefully and critically about how our budget is structured and how we use it to keep this university moving forward,” Woodson told faculty members.
NC State recently delayed a second round of faculty “cluster hires” to the 2015-16 academic year due to financial constraints.
At Tuesday’s meeting, faculty members also got a budget primer from Vice Chancellor Charles D. Leffler, who heads the university’s Office of Finance and Business. He noted that, contrary to media reports, NC State faces tough budget choices as it copes with a $21-million reduction in state funds in the current fiscal year.
Although NC State did receive $21 million in new state funding, much of that is restricted, he said. For example, the university received a one-time allocation of $12 million in new state funds for building repair and renovation. But the university needs $80 million to meet repair needs in this year alone, Leffler said. And those funds can’t be used to hire faculty or fund academic programs.
“New monies never make up for the cuts,” he said.
Woodson, Leffler and other university officials fielded a score of questions from faculty on issues ranging from budget rules to enrollment planning.
Faculty chair David Zonderman, who presided over Tuesday’s meeting, said the Faculty Senate would continue to discuss budget and strategic planning issues in the months ahead. He urged faculty members to attended the twice-monthly meetings and offer their ideas on university priorities, resource allocation and strategic planning.
The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in the senate chambers in the D.H. Hill Library.