Message on the Economy

Letter to the Union family

July 9, 2009

Dear Members of the Union Family,

I would like to bring you up to date on the work we have been doing to prepare Union College for the budget shortfall we expect to face in two years as a result of the economic downturn. As I reported in my last letter, this expected shortfall results from the declining value of our endowment, reduced donations to the College, and our desire to meet the increased financial need of our families. Even with the steps we’ve already taken (e.g., limiting salary and wage increases, freezing program budgets, and eliminating some vacant positions), our budget models predict a shortfall of roughly 2.5 million dollars in the operating budget for the 2012-13 academic year. While this is smaller than the shortfall many of our peer institutions will face, it does call for us to be proactive in identifying and implementing cost savings opportunities.

Our Planning and Priorities Committee has met throughout the spring term to discuss such opportunities. The Committee has been greatly assisted in its work by the larger Union community, over 400 of whom responded to an online survey soliciting cost reduction suggestions. Additionally, working groups within each of the College’s key functions have analyzed their budgets and expenditures in detail and identified possible savings. Throughout this process, we have made it a priority to maintain the quality and safety of the student experience, to continue advancing our core academic mission, and to retain our dedicated faculty and staff.

The result is that we have identified opportunities to realize $500,000 in cost savings in our operating budget for next year. These savings will result from:

Not replacing certain administrative and staff positions that are vacant, and restructuring responsibilities or reducing hours for other administrative positions. This will allow for a total budget reduction in excess of $220,000.

Finding efficiencies that either increase revenues to the College or reduce expenses, such as financial rebates from changes in purchasing procedures, more efficient systems (e.g. bulk mail, fire detection, ID replacement), and new technologies which will enable reduced maintenance costs. Total savings resulting from these efficiencies amount to more than $125,000. Moving some of our printed publications to an electronic format, including the 2010-11 Student Handbook and job postings. These steps will allow us to cut costs while advancing our sustainability efforts. Likewise, we will take advantage of “green options” offered by vendors who supply the College. Total savings will amount to over $35,000. Reducing expenditures related to food services, including reduced hours in the College Park Hall food kiosk and the Rathskellar during low volume periods, as well as the suspension or reduction of several faculty and staff events. Total savings amount to more than $70,000. Reducing administrative budgets by cutting some institutional memberships and programming funds. These savings amount to more than $30,000. The $500,000 saved in our 2009-10 operating budget by taking these steps will significantly reduce the budget shortfall facing us in 2012-13. Nevertheless, simple arithmetic makes clear that we will need to identify and implement additional cost-saving measures. Thus, the Planning & Priorities Committee will resume its deliberations in the fall. I will continue to update you as decisions have been made.

Again, your support of this process, the gifts many of you have already given to the College, and the confidence you place in us by continuing to send your children to Union is inspiring and is deeply appreciated by me and by every member of the campus community. We remain committed to the vision for Union articulated in our Strategic Plan. We will continue our efforts to preserve the integrity of the educational process and the experiences of our students. We will continue our efforts to provide for our talented faculty and staff. We will also continue to make every effort to support the financial needs of the families who send their sons and daughters here. We remain committed to moving Union forward even in the face of economic challenges. We have much that needs to be accomplished in order to achieve our strategic goals, and with your continued help and support, we will succeed.