Budget cuts and tuition increase at SU

Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor says she will take a pay cut of 10 percent, impose a freeze on wage increases for higher paid staff, and propose a tuition hike when she unveils her proposed budget for the 2009-2010 academic year later today. Tuition will increase by 4.5%, which the university says is its smallest increase in 43 years.

According to the University, Syracuse University's proposed cost of attendance for undergraduate students for the 2009-10 academic year (tuition, average room and board, and required fees) is $47,993. This represents a 4.47% increase from the 2008-09 cost of $45,939. The University says that students have several room and board options; and the total cost figure represented here is reflective of the most popular option: an open double room and 19-meal plan. The standard for cost comparison among higher education institutions is based on firm figures of tuition/average room and board/required fees.

Here is the letter from Chancellor Cantor posted on the SU web site:

Dear SU Campus Community Members,

This afternoon, at a special University Senate meeting, there will be a discussion of recommendations for the 2010 (FY10) University budget that will be presented for approval to the Board of Trustees in the coming week. Since not all members of the SU community will be able to attend, I want to describe the key aspects of that budget plan and share the comments I will make at the meeting.

As you know from my previous communications, we have been working since last fall to take decisive steps to reduce administrative costs and develop a budget for next year that maintains our strong momentum even in the face of the economic pressures that we and other higher education colleagues are facing. The administrative and support unit savings, totaling $8.8 million in FY09 and growing to $12.1 million in FY10 and beyond, combined with an operating freeze on the budgets of those units along with a "mission critical" review process for any new personnel appointments, provides us with a firm foundation as we continue to face the need for prudent fiscal planning going forward.

During the past several months, we have worked very closely with the deans to formulate a multi-year financial plan for each school/college that will maintain their academic momentum. We do not plan any systematic personnel cuts in the schools and colleges as part of FY10 budget savings, although deans will be working with their departments and units to find operational savings and enhance revenues in areas of strategic focus to ensure that the momentum extends through FY11 and beyond.

Throughout this process, we have had four guiding principles:

  • maintain academic momentum;
  • meet the financial needs of our students;
  • remain a strong employer and support our lower paid employees; and
  • create administrative/support unit efficiencies while maintaining important student and faculty support services.

Now that our FY10 budget planning is in place, I want to summarize the ways in which we believe this budget addresses these guiding principles.

Our Students : Clearly, as a centerpiece of our efforts, we must support the strongest incoming class possible and build on the last several years of unprecedented interest in Syracuse. Once again, we had a very large undergraduate application pool this year-both for early and regular decision candidates-totaling more than 21,000 applicants for 3,200 first-year and 325 transfer spots. Our early decision process is now almost complete, and we are delighted to report that our packages of enhanced financial aid support (mixing need-based and merit aid) has enabled an even greater percentage (94%) of our early admits to choose Syracuse as compared to last year. Looking to our regular admission decisions, we have another outstanding pool of first-year and transfer applicants and are absolutely committed to meeting more of their financial needs for a broader range of families than ever before.

As you know, Syracuse is proud of our tradition of socio-economic diversity, and we know that our very substantial institutional aid budget, nearly $147 million in 08-09 and increasing by 11% to $164 million in 09-10, including $35 million in merit aid, is essential to our enrollment success. We feel a responsibility to find the resources to meet our students' full need, and we will do that by providing more aid to our entering class this coming year. We will expand affordability for middle-income students by increasing our average institutional scholarship by 15%, to $19,000 in 09-10.

Typically 20% of our incoming students come from low-income backgrounds and are eligible for federal support from Pell Grants. As critical as that support is, the financial gap for those students is still considerable. This coming year, we will fill that gap as much as possible through institutional aid rather than loans. We are making every effort to provide new support to ensure low-income students graduate with more manageable debt level and will do so by increasing their average institutional scholarship by $4,800, or 29%, in 09-10. Additionally, with a critical eye toward retention, we will take steps to reduce the loan burden for continuing students from low-income families. Moreover, as we did with Syracuse Responds, we will make additional funds available to current students whose families are facing new pressures in today's economic environment.

Our institutional financial aid budget is very large and significantly reduces the cost of attending Syracuse for more than two-thirds of our undergraduate students. At the same time, we have tried hard in the last several years to keep increases in tuition down for all of our students and their families, while also increasing financial aid and keeping pace with innovations in academic programming, technology, facilities, and safety and security. This year requires even stronger constraint on tuition, so we are advancing a tuition and room and board increase of 4.5% (as compared to 5.6% for tuition and 5% for room and board last year). This is the lowest tuition increase at SU in 43 years. Along with breaking new ground in terms of our own modern institutional history, this rate will likely keep us toward the lower end in total cost of attendance among the group of AAU and neighboring private institutions with whom we traditionally compare ourselves. Within this group, last year we ranked 27th out of 32 institutions in total cost and with this year's increase we expect to remain in this vicinity. We know that we must keep our costs down and our financial aid up to maintain our proud tradition of being a place of opportunity for generations of students.

Our Faculty and Staff : To keep Syracuse University vibrant, to keep pace with innovation in our fields, and to best address the interests of our enterprising students and pressing issues of our time, we must continue to enhance our faculty through hiring of outstanding faculty in areas of strategic importance. Therefore, it is especially gratifying that we found widespread support among the deans, the faculty at large, and members of our different budget committees, for maintaining faculty searches. We are conducting 89 searches across our schools and colleges even as we face tremendous constraints on our personnel budget. At the same time, since faculty and staff compensation costs represent 44% of our budget, we will need to keep the salary budget down by freezing salaries at FY09 levels for those with base salaries of $50,000 or above. This will extend to others the freeze already in place for me, the Cabinet and Deans. I believe it is right that I lead the way, therefore I will be taking a voluntary 10% salary reduction.

Most importantly, we will continue to support our lowest paid employees by providing an average 3% merit salary increase pool for those faculty and staff with base salaries of less than $50,000, and also honor our union commitments. We will continue to reward the efforts and achievements of our faculty who are gaining tenure and promotion this year with merit increases. All of our faculty and staff are by necessity doing more with less in this economic environment. So it is difficult to make these choices, but we believe that this program will enable us to keep moving ahead academically and reinforce our commitment to supporting those within our campus community likely to be hit hardest in these times.

Our facilities and partnerships : As we look around campus today, there are signature new facilities-Newhouse 3, Whitman, the Life Sciences Complex-along with terrific renovations of revered historic spaces, from Slocum to Tolley, which match our academic ambitions and enable new programs and partnerships to emerge. Next year, we will open Ernie Davis Hall, complete with new living and learning opportunities, including a 10,600 square foot recreational facility and 15,000 square foot dining hall for our students. These are all important projects, and although we will hold back our ambitions for the time being on others, there are several we are moving ahead with, even in these tight times. We will do so because they are central to our momentum and represent the fruits of partnerships bringing strength and excitement to Syracuse. For example, the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems will soon open downtown while we join with IBM to build a new "green" data center at Skytop. This project will pioneer the application of green technology to save energy and enhance indoor environmental quality. Meanwhile, technology will also abound in Lyman, as our collaboration with JPMorgan Chase grows. At JPMorgan's Technology Center in Lyman, new technology jobs will come to campus and exciting curricular and research opportunities will flourish for our students and faculty. In nearby Bowne Hall, a different sort of innovation will find a home. We will renovate the facility as a home for our new interdisciplinary Biomaterials Institute, which will bring collaboration with our colleagues at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Blue Highway-Welch Allyn's biomedical innovation center on campus. Innovation and collaboration are finding homes all over campus and our connected community.

As we find these many ways during tight times to support our students, faculty, staff, facilities and partnerships we are repeatedly reminded how important it is to collaborate broadly and widely with communities of experts regionally, nationally and globally. We are rightly energized by these many partnerships-from Say Yes to Education and Economic Development to the Kauffman Foundation- supported Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative. We know that our capital campaign, which is still very much on track to meet its $1 billion goal, is enhanced by their promise. We have seen from the very positive response to our Trustees' matching program for new endowed faculty chairs and the Syracuse Responds student financial aid initiative that our extended Syracuse family values our ambitions.

Syracuse is a university that takes its place in the world seriously. We want to use our intellectual capital to make a difference and to educate our students in the world, as it is today and as it can be tomorrow. We have great ambitions for our university; we must and will keep pressing forward on this mission.

Cordially,Nancy Cantor