Building the Future
The University of South Florida has been engaged in budget discussions during the past year, and more intensely in the last several months and weeks, to reinforce our strong financial foundation to support our academic aspirations. In addition to the process of reinforcing our budgetary alignment, the university currently maintains strong financial reserves, which support an excellent credit rating.
The primary drivers behind this process were:
The unforeseeable expenses and reduced revenues associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
Instructions from the Board of Governors (BOG) to prepare a plan for cuts in state funding of 8.5% for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, and a 10% reduction in the 2022 fiscal year.
The need to identify permanent funding for investments made in previous years to attain the state’s targets for preeminence and performance-based funding metrics or, alternatively, were designed to meet regulatory requirements.
An 8.5% reduction from the state, if enacted, represents a reduction in funding of over $36 million. Estimated COVID-19 expenses through December 31 are estimated at $31 million. The university has received $17 million in CARES Act funding to be used for COVID-19-related expenses. In addition, $57 million of investments were previously made in programs without permanent funding identified.
In the context of these challenges, budgets across our campuses have been reviewed as part of the president’s plan for USF’s strategic renewal.
Guided by our Principles of Community, the process has been deliberative and inclusive. The provost, regional chancellors, deans, the senior vice presidents of health and business and finance, and other selected leaders were asked to discuss budget scenarios at various levels of budget reductions. Each budget unit submitted draft plans to reduce budgets with changes taking effect between now and the end of fiscal 2022. During the course of 12 days – from September 17 through September 28 – and over 70 hours, leaders individually presented the budgets of more than 40 budgetary units to a budget planning team of senior leaders led by President Currall for rigorous review and analysis.
Importantly, the individual dialogues with unit leaders reflected a fundamental principle set forth by President Currall that reductions would be made in alignment with the university’s strategic aspirations (e.g., to become a top-25 public research university). During these meetings, the president and members of his leadership team gained additional insights regarding the mission-critical endeavors within each of the units. Other principles included focuses on student success and access, protecting the upward trajectory of USF research and creative activity, and maintaining institutional excellence.
The result of this process is a plan for a series of actions that will position USF for greater future successes while supporting financial stewardship goals.
The actions will be implemented in phases, allowing us to meet requirements from the state without negatively impacting our university’s tremendous positive momentum. Actions between now and June 30, 2021, will meet the 8.5% reduction required by the Board of Governors. A second phase will plot the necessary steps needed to fully balance the operational budget by June 30, 2022.
The first-phase reductions total $36.7 million for the year ending June 30, 2021, in state-funded budgets.
They are tentatively identified are as follows:
Colleges: reductions of $13.4 million
Academic support: reductions of $4.9 million
University business support: reductions of $6.5 million
USF Health: reductions of $6.9 million
USF St. Petersburg campus: reductions of $3.1 million
USF Sarasota-Manatee campus: reductions of $1.9 million
These reductions do not include auxiliary enterprises, which are determining their actions based on their particular revenue streams.
In addition to these actions, President Currall instituted a salary reduction plan, effective October 2, mandating compensation cuts of 6% to 10% for his leadership team with the president taking a voluntary 15% salary reduction. A pause for hiring and salary increases was announced in early September, and university-related travel has been paused.
Additional measures have been taken or are in process to trim budgets and preserve liquidity.
These include putting on hold, where possible, new construction, renovation and deferred maintenance projects and refinancing at lower rates all eligible debt. We are also reexamining the appropriate level of reserves and the related impact on the university’s existing strong credit rating, which enables us to minimize the interest paid on university debt.
These actions – while difficult – will help USF meet its budgetary goals that support strategic investments and a focus on further strengthening USF’s commitment to academic excellence.
Information courtesy of David Lechner, Senior Vice President for Business and Financial Strategy, and Nick Trivunovich, Vice President of Business and Chief Financial Officer
Guided by our Principles of Community, President Currall and his executive leadership team used an inclusive, thoughtful and deliberate process. Budget discussions have been ongoing since 2019 and more recently numerous consultations were held with vice presidents, vice provosts, regional chancellors, deans, the Faculty Senate and trustees, among others across our campuses, to inform decisions made in the best interest of the university’s future.
Our plan will allow us to rebalance our financial allocations to enhance support for academic excellence and to strengthen both faculty and student success. We will strategically invest in our academic priorities and aspirations. Those commitments include strengthening the quality of our best academic programs, supporting our faculty and their research, scholarly and creative efforts and continuing our unwavering commitment to student success.
University leadership worked closely with the regional chancellors, very similar to deans, vice presidents and others, on plans to align budgets for strategic renewal and to support USF’s aspirations, rather than simply making across the board reductions.
The long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the state budget or enrollment patterns are still unknown. As such, we have adopted a phased approach, allowing us to meet requirements from the state without negatively impacting our university’s tremendous positive momentum. Actions between now and June 30, 2021 will meet the plan for a proposed 8.5% reduction required by the BOG. A second phase will plot the necessary steps needed to meet the balanced budget goal by June 30, 2022.
Florida resident undergraduate base tuition is set annually by the Florida Legislature and was not increased in the current state budget, nor has the USF BOT requested any increases at this time.
Our targeted approach allows us to focus on programs of strategic importance that are in high demand or services that are needed in these times of remote work and online instruction.
We remain focused on our strong performance trajectory and academic aspirations. Accordingly, we will focus our investments on those programs and activities that align with our goals of reaching the top 25 and being eligible for membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU). And we will look to invest identified savings into areas that most strongly support those goals. These include strengthening the quality of our best academic programs, investing in our faculty and their research, scholarly and creative efforts, and continuing our unwavering commitment to student success.
While we are working with the Foundation to determine levels of support that may be possible in the short-term, Foundation funds are often restricted to specific uses as determined by our donors, such as scholarships, professorships and facilities improvements. These funds would not be appropriate for long-term operational support.
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