Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor Jeff DeWitt, CFO and Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance Jason Hornberger, Vice Provost for Finance
Wednesday, July 14, 2021 10:42 a.m.
KU Lawrence All Staff, Faculty and Affiliates

Dear Colleagues,

The purpose of this memo is to provide an update on our fiscal outlook, to let you know how we’ll continue to address our situation, and the benefits you will experience as our situation improves. Most importantly, we also invite your participation in providing suggestions and ideas for improvement.

Please Send us Your Suggestions and Ideas

In April, KU Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt provided an update to campus. Jeff’s video outlined the financial challenges we face on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, and a path forward to resolve them.

As we work together to achieve our vision and mission while improving our fiscal situation, we need to hear from you. Please share your suggestions and ideas by taking a few minutes to offer your thoughts through this online form.

Update on FY 2022

Projected fall 2021 student enrollment is currently trending flat compared to fall 2020. The fiscal year 2022 budget passed by the Kansas legislature resulted in a reduction for KU’s state-appropriated funds, although it will provide additional one-time funding to offset the budget reduction. Our limitation with this one-time funding is that it has restrictions on how these dollars can be spent. Additionally, a new Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) policy on funding deferred maintenance will create significant challenges over the next six years.

Even with these limitations, because of your collective fiscal discipline in FY21 and rigorous budget planning for FY22, we have some good news to share with you. Carryforward funds will not be swept, and the hiring freeze will be lifted allowing us to strategically reinvest in our faculty and staff. We will soon share more details with deans, directors and budget officers regarding carryforward funds and how we will facilitate academic and administrative searches.

A Culture that Promotes Strategic Stewardship

We recognize that each of us — administrators, faculty, staff and students — is a steward of university resources. In this period of fundamental change and transformation in the higher education sector and at KU, the charge and challenge to each of us is continue being strategic, disciplined and data-informed as we make decisions and develop financial plans.

In previous communications, we, as well as the Chancellor, have stated that we will engage in strategies and disciplined spending that include greater investments in our staff and faculty as we advance our vision and fiscal stability. We are committed to merit-based salary increases, competitive compensation and other activities that help each of us succeed in our work, feel more valued and further our shared institutional goals. We will create opportunities for campus leaders to provide incentives and a development-focused environment for our employees.

In addition to creating a more supportive workplace, KU leaders will focus on steps to help us better use our resources, such as promoting administrative service and continuous quality improvement, conducting a space utilization study, and modernizing university travel and procurement processes.

Promoting Administrative Services and Continuous Quality Improvement

This summer and fall, we are establishing Service Experience Councils (SECs) that will work with administrative leaders to set goals, provide feedback, and improve quality of services for administrative areas such as research administration, IT, finance, facilities, human resources and communications.

Their work will be foundational to ongoing review of administrative services as we work to continuously improve the quality of our operational and administrative organizations and activities.

Engaging in regular and ongoing review will allow us to leverage our limited resources to ensure that our administrative services best meet the needs of their users and constituents. We will be sharing more details about the Service Experiences Councils as they are established.

Space Utilization Study

You may be aware that KU leases off-campus space from other entities to house some of our research and administrative service units. We are currently conducting a space utilization study, with our goals being to reduce the need for off-campus leased space and to improve the efficiency of space utilization for our on-campus facilities. This study will allow us to be better stewards of both the university’s facilities and fiscal resources.

University Travel Policy

Over the past academic year, the Travel Steering Committee has focused its efforts on developing a new KU travel policy and supporting program for policy implementation to decrease travel costs, mitigate risk and improve traveler convenience and safety. The Travel Steering Committee will continue to support the implementation of the Concur Travel System over the next 18 months. More details regarding the adoption of Concur Travel will be shared soon.

Procurement Analysis

Campus leaders are also analyzing university spending patterns to determine how we can employ strategic sourcing to save funds or leverage our limited resources in a meaningful way.

Creating a Brighter Future

The past year — with the pandemic, changes to our daily lives and work, and budget reductions — was particularly stressful and challenging. These months have taken a toll professionally and personally on our emotions and on our energy. As we grow and progress toward a more stable financial future for the university, we ask that each Jayhawk continues to bring their creative and intellectual talents to support and accelerate KU’s mission and success.

We see a clearer path toward a stronger KU and a more stable financial future. If the enrollment, state appropriations and federal support assumptions upon which we’ve based our financial projections continue to hold, we have until June 30, 2023 to grow our revenues and decrease expenses to attain a structurally balanced budget.

We are all stewards of KU — working in our own areas of responsibility to support the entire institution. With collaborative and collective effort, we will succeed in achieving our vision and mission, as well as in attaining fiscal health and sustainability. We must focus on strategic priorities and, in many cases, rethink what we do and how we do it. Now is the time to work together to reimagine how we can create efficiencies, reduce expenses and invest KU resources to grow opportunities and strengthen the university.

We are confident that KU community members will come together to rise to this challenge. We can do this without losing sight of the people we are here to serve or the people who serve alongside us.

Do you have suggestions to improve processes or reduce expenses, or growth-minded ideas that will positively impact KU? If so, we need you to share your ideas. The online form asks for your idea, the benefits and the resources necessary for implementation. Even if you are doing something on your own to improve processes, reduce expenses or create opportunities, document it on the form so it can be shared with others. It may be the start of something bigger.

We know you care deeply about the work you do and the impact it has on our community. Thank you for your dedication to our students and community members, and for your stewardship of this institution.

Respectfully,

Barb, Jeff and Jason

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer

Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

Jeff DeWitt

Chief Financial Officer

Jason F. Hornberger

Vice Provost for Finance