7-13-20 Message to Community


Today’s communication is a follow up to President’s Crawford letter to the community on the budget, to provide particulars on how the budget reductions impact our unit. As I outlined in a prior message, most universities have faced multiple budgetary challenges in recent years, resulting in a combination of declining net revenue and increasing expenses.

COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation for students, families, and universities in multiple ways. Like most states, Ohio has also experienced significant revenue declines during COVID-19, which has led us to plan for reduced state support for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) and possibly beyond. Through multiple efforts, we have successfully addressed our expected revenue declines for the university, which we are currently forecasting to be around $27 million if we are able to have a successful fall semester on campus. This refined projection reflects a smaller anticipated reduction in state support for instruction (SSI) than previously indicated.

As always, in addressing the budget challenges, we have prioritized our core values of supporting students, providing an unparalleled educational experience, and protecting our academic mission.

As President Crawford outlined in his email, and as I have discussed in prior communications, prior to COVID-19, we recognized coming budget challenges and utilized our agile budget model to reduce FY21 expenditures by approximately $19 M. With the pandemic and ongoing economic crisis, the university must do more to balance the FY21 budget. Of course, this relies upon our ability to successfully host students on campus, that our incoming and returning students remain in line with current projections, that we can deliver our signature personalized and high quality Miami University learning experiences, and that there are no additional reductions in state support.

Toward a balanced budget: We as a leadership team have worked collaboratively to balance our forecasted budget primarily through reductions in operating expenditures and unfilled positions. All institutions must continue evolving to meet new challenges and needs, and we are no exception. We are often ranked as the most efficient university in the nation, and to be good stewards of student tuition and public funds, we must continue to evaluate everything we do.

I have met with each dean multiple times over the past two months and through these discussions, we have identified fifteen (15) staff positions, out of 634 total, within Academic Affairs that we are considering eliminating or centralizing. These individuals have been informed that their position is under consideration and review for possible elimination. We will know the outcome of these reviews by August 1st. For those staff members impacted by these position eliminations, our professionals within Academic Personnel and Human Resources will provide assistance in locating other career opportunities within and external to Miami, with resume and interviewing, and the benefits and severance package.

These 15 staff position eliminations and reductions in expenditures are not taken lightly, but every organization needs to evolve over time, and these painful cuts align our expenditures with revenue even while we invest in new initiatives. We cannot assume our budget situation will materially improve in FY22 or beyond. Our country will likely face significant economic challenges from COVID-19 for several years, and higher education continues to face all the challenges outlined in my prior budget message. In order to invest in new positions, or fill important vacant positions while striving for a balanced budget, we must reallocate revenue from existing sources. The resources from these 15 staff positions will be reallocated to create strategically essential new and vacant positions that could not be filled otherwise.

Revenue outlook: Our multiple rounds of in reductions of expenditures, and an unexpected increase in state support for instruction (SSI) give us a much better opportunity to produce revenue in excess of what we spend, which may allow us to return revenue to our colleges for strategic investment in new initiatives as soon as FY22. This week, we will inform deans and budget managers how we are allocating expense budget to academic divisions, and each division will be able to manage those funds as they need, carrying forward unspent revenue, and receiving distributions of net revenue when Academic Affairs is net positive.
Strategic investment for the future: Although some projects may have been delayed, we continue to focus on our strategic plan, Miami RISE, and plans to advance Miami in the future through our Boldly Creative (BC) investments. Several new initiatives, like the new one-year masters degrees in Business Management and in Analytics, and some of our online degree programs, are expected to generate significant new revenue, which will also help strengthen our position going forward. We must continue to invest in promising initiatives that will keep Miami University strong for decades to come. We have recently completed funding for a second year of initiatives funded through BC Round #1, and new funding for promising initiatives from BC Round #2. We are currently finalizing funding plans for BC round #3, providing support for online initiatives that serve our mission and are expected to increase net revenue for the future.

Our budget planning is inextricably linked to our plans for dealing with COVID-19. All of these models and budget projections assume we have a full, on-campus fall and spring semester, and that the State of Ohio does not need to significantly reduce support. We have multiple committees helping lead us forward into this unpredictable future, and I am confident we have positioned ourselves for the best possible outcomes if we can successfully implement recommended public health guidelines on campus and in our communities.

Many thanks to each of you for helping us navigate these challenging times. I believe that next year as we plan for FY22, we will be in a much better place. Thank you for continuing to focus on our mission of serving our students. Thank you for helping to develop the next generation of leaders who will take responsibility for making our world a better place. I look forward to co-creating a stronger Miami with you.

Love and Honor,

Jason Osborne