Strategic growth, challenges reflected in 2017-18 proposed budget

Under a proposed budget for 2017-18, the university would adjust to shifts in enrollment while making investments in faculty and staff to remain a competitive workplace. 
 
The Strategic Resource Allocation Committee, known as SRAC, unanimously recommended the proposed $559 million budget to the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president, who accepted the proposal in December. The finance committee of the board of trustees approved the proposed budget at its Dec. 15 meeting. The full board will consider it for approval in March. 
 
"Like many other universities across the country, DePaul is facing modest enrollment challenges that have a direct impact on our university finances. The proposed budget will place DePaul in a strong position to provide high-quality service to students, invest in strategic growth and attract and retain talented faculty and staff," Holtschneider says. "The members of SRAC faced hours of deliberations in recommending this budget. I appreciate their hard work and care for DePaul."
 
SRAC began its work with a request from the board's finance committee to set a budget based on conservative enrollment projections and moderate tuition pricing increases. The finance committee also requested a budget that includes a positive operating margin.
 
In addition, SRAC considered current and future enrollment trends. Though not as severe as the declines seen at other Chicago-area universities, total DePaul enrollment declined 2 percent in fall 2016 from the previous year. Enrollment is expected to decline in the next fiscal year as well. Since DePaul depends on tuition for nearly 90 percent of its revenue, the decline in students has significant effects on overall university resources. 
 
The nine members of SRAC, drawn from faculty, staff, student and administration leaders, recommended a budget that met the finance committee's requested parameters and adjusted for expected declines in revenue.  
 
For students, the recommended budget ensures protection for Monetary Award Program funding through the 2017-18 academic year. MAP provides state-funded grants to Illinois students, including 5,000 at DePaul. Though the state eventually agreed to fulfill its obligation in 2016, the Illinois state budget impasse placed MAP funding in jeopardy for the first six months of the year. 
 
In addition, SRAC recommended moderate tuition pricing increases for new undergraduates, with lower increases for continuing and graduate students. Institutional financial aid will increase nearly 4 percent over the previous year's budget to $203 million. 
 
The proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent merit pool increase for full- and part-time faculty and staff in the next fiscal year. As required by legislation enacted in 2014, the budget also includes a pool to increase wages to a minimum of $11.00 per hour. This wage increase primarily benefits student employees. 
 
Among the several new or enhanced benefits features in the proposed budget, the university will:
  • increase the match of employees' 403(b) contributions from 9 to 9.5 percent;
  • enhance paid maternity leave by adding two additional weeks of pay and providing two weeks of paid paternity leave; and
  • introduce a tuition waiver for part-time staff that matches the tuition waiver currently offered to adjunct faculty.
At the same time, to accommodate the budget deficit created by declining enrollments, SRAC recommended budget reductions. Units will achieve the cuts in different ways, with colleges or schools that have experienced declining enrollments facing steeper reductions in expenses than those that are stable or growing. 
 
DePaul will continue to invest in areas of the university that are growing. This includes 34 faculty searches that have been authorized across the university for fiscal year 2018 and funding for investments in program developments. 
Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to ask questions about the budget when Jeff Bethke, executive vice president and SRAC chair, and Marten denBoer, provost, speak at upcoming Faculty and Staff Council meetings. 
 
"SRAC members carefully weighed how the proposed budget would affect the lives of their fellow faculty and staff members as well as our students," Bethke says. "I am grateful for their valuable input and cooperation in building a proposed budget that will sustain DePaul's success."
 
Voting members of SRAC for 2016-17 were:
  • Jeff Bethke, executive vice president and SRAC chair
  • Marten denBoer, provost
  • Sherri Sidler, controller
  • David Miller, dean, College of Computing and Digital Media
  • Salma Ghanem, dean, College of Communication
  • Bamshad Mobasher, Faculty Council president
  • Tom Mondschean, Faculty Council representative
  • Charles Snelling, Staff Council president
  • Richard Popp, Student Government Association president