Dear Ship Campus Community,
I have said it before, but it bears repeating: thank you for all you have done and are doing to carry out the work of our university during this time. I recognize that you face challenges beyond your work life, yet you remain dedicated to the success of our students and our beloved Ship. Your hard work ensured that nearly 1,000 of our students can call themselves Ship graduates today! You even made the time to celebrate their accomplishments through your many messages of congratulations and participation in virtual celebrations. It is this commitment to our students that will carry us through these next months. I ask that you carefully read the details of this email for updated information on our fall plans and beyond, budget, and enrollment.
Planning for fall and beyond
As you know, for the last four weeks, six working groups comprised of your colleagues and students, have been working diligently and with a high sense of urgency to develop recommendations for how we move forward with the life of the university. While I would like to say that this work is for a post-pandemic world, we must use our creativity to plan for running the university while we live and work through this pandemic. A post-pandemic consultant and a planning subject matter expert with extensive experience, Christopher Clarke, is assisting the working groups. When the groups submit their recommendations, Mr. Clarke will help us develop a customized Ship plan for implementation that ensures the safety of our entire community. By mid-June, we will share the next steps in our planning. Our goal, of course, is to be back on our beloved campus and sharing life at Ship in the fall.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our university was dealing with significant financial challenges. Since the fall, as part of developing the Financial Sustainability Plan, the Planning and Budget Council (PBC) has been working to get our budget for this academic year (2019/2020) closer to balanced. One of the main components of the financial sustainability plan is to develop budget scenarios for a balanced budget each year. I am pleased to inform you that the PBC has almost achieved that goal for the deficit we had pre-COVID-19. I am thankful to them for their extraordinary work. Now, however, the pandemic presents unforeseen financial challenges that necessitate further planning.
The university refunded students for services such as housing, dining, and fees that were no longer offered when our campus moved to remote learning in March. We incurred technology costs to move to remote learning and working and were forced to cancel summer camps and conferences. We also have incurred additional expenses related to COVID-19 including meals and support of students remaining on campus, PPE, and other supplies to ensure the safety of the Ship community. In aggregate, we anticipate the expenses associated with COVID-19 to be between $8-10 million.
Only $2.7 million of the loss will be covered by CARES Act funding that we received from the federal government. The other 50% of our CARES Act allocation goes directly to students.
Compounding the effects of lost revenues from this spring, we anticipate opportunities for revenues in the fall to be more challenging than ever. On April 29, 2020, the PASSHE Board of Governors voted to hold 2020/2021 tuition flat, which was initially projected to increase by 1.5%. We support this decision to provide financial relief to students and their families at this incredibly difficult time. Given the strains on the economy across the commonwealth, we have been informed that the annual state appropriation to the State System will likely decrease this year.
Finally, while our numbers of new first-time-in-college student confirmations are positive now, we have no way of knowing how students and families will respond when the implications of the pandemic, whatever they are, play out in August. National projections anticipate a 15% decrease of college enrollment for fall 2020. We have to be prepared for an enrollment decline. After attempting to hire an interim to fill the gap, we have engaged a national firm to help us with our expedited search to replace Dr. Truss for the significant work of recruitment and retention in the division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. The final configuration of the Division of Enrollment Management, Student Success, and Student Affairs will be determined in the coming months. During the transition, if necessary, the area will report to the Division of Academic Affairs with duties distributed throughout that division.
We do know that recessionary times highlight the importance of education for career advancement and stability, so it is critical for us to seize this opportunity to expand our upskilling and reskilling offerings and our online master’s programs. I encourage faculty to engage with Dr. Mukherjee in her role as senior associate provost and chief strategy officer to create programs that will enable us to meet the workforce needs of our region.
Because of the good work of the PBC, we have reduced our deficit significantly. The work of the council was incorporated in our first draft of the sustainability plan, which included not filling vacant positions across campus that arise from retirements and/or resignations, reducing the number of adjunct faculty, and other expense reduction initiatives such as reducing travel and operational expenses.
The PBC will continue its work finding ways to offset our financial challenges, and you can help, too. Keep working on our four priorities:
Keep supporting our students and their families. Remind them that there is help across the university including emergencies brought on by the pandemic. You can refer them to the emergency fund request application at http://www.ship.edu/coronavirus/emergency-funding/ available to all students.
Telling our story
Keep telling the Shippensburg University story. It hasn’t changed. A Shippensburg University education still changes lives. Shippensburg University is still a great place to learn and grow. Shippensburg University is still full of employees who are dedicated to creating those great stories of success.
Engaging with our community
Keep doing your part to keep our community safe and healthy. Abide by the COVID-19 spread mitigation practices outlined by our state and federal health experts. Support our local businesses operating under extraordinarily difficult conditions, yet continuing to serve the community. Be ready to support those businesses waiting to reopen when guidance allows them to safely do so.
Keep pushing forward with the high-caliber work you have maintained through the last two months. We WILL work through the COVID-19 pandemic, and Shippensburg University graduates will be important contributors to our post-pandemic world.
Your resilience and can-do spirit has shown so brilliantly over these last few months; a stellar characteristic of our Ship community. It is because of this spirit that I am certain we will weather these financial challenges and continue our mission of ensuring student success for generations to come.
Stay safe, and have a great weekend,
Laurie A. Carter