Dear USF community,
With the autumn semester well underway, we wish to thank you for your extraordinary efforts to prioritize the health and well-being of our community while continuing to deliver high-quality academic instruction, producing world class research and providing a rewarding yet modified campus experience across all our locations.
While these tremendous efforts continue, it is imperative that the University of South Florida advances our vision for strategic renewal so that we emerge from this pandemic even stronger and better positioned to fuel the university’s upward trajectory in pursuit of our academic aspirations.
Financial stewardship is a necessary component of strategic renewal. As a leadership team, we have been working diligently on a plan to rebalance our financial allocations to enhance support for academic excellence and to strengthen both faculty and student success. Our staff colleagues are invaluable partners in our journey in pursuit of excellence.
Of course, the pandemic has profoundly impacted this year’s university budget. In addition to countless industries across our region, state and nation, public higher education has perhaps never faced such financial obstacles. When the threat of the new coronavirus became clear in early 2020, pressing needs emerged immediately at USF. These included support for an unprecedented shift to remote learning and measures to protect the health and well-being of our academic community.
Thankfully, USF received CARES Act emergency aid funding, and generous donors contributed to an emergency fund to support our students. Funds from both sources were appropriately directed toward urgent and well-defined needs to support students and the members of our university community most impacted by the crisis. We are working closely with our Congressional Delegation in the hopes that the federal government will provide additional financial assistance to offset unforeseen expenses related to the coronavirus.
The estimated cost of COVID-19 to USF from March through December, 31, 2020, is $31 million, with additional longer-term budget impacts yet to be determined. Meanwhile, the State of Florida has responded to the impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s economy and tax revenue by requesting plans from all state universities for an 8.5% reduction in our recurring general revenue and lottery funds in the current fiscal year. This means a reduction in funding for USF of $36.7 million. Depending on how our state’s economy recovers, it is possible that further reductions in state funding may be required.
Another important determinant of our financial outlook is student enrollment patterns. Although some universities experienced COVID-19-related declines in enrollment, USF, in fact, welcomed a strong cohort of high-achieving and diverse students for our summer and fall 2020 sessions. This is a testament to USF’s rapid climb in national reputation, along with the financial investments we’ve made to ensure academic continuity and programs to support our students, faculty and staff throughout the pandemic. The pandemic, however, has adversely impacted the number of international and out-of-state students who were able to enroll at USF this year, and this is affecting revenue.
Before the onset of the pandemic, our most important investments have been in those programs designed to benefit new and continuing students and faculty through meeting the State of Florida’s requirements for preeminence and performance-based funding metrics. USF, in fact, has exceeded the state’s targets to gain recognition as one of only three Preeminent Research Universities in Florida and is proudly positioned to be ranked number one in the state this year for performance-based metrics, many of which focus on student success. In the recent past those achievements would have resulted in additional state funding. State funding, however, was not made available to USF to invest additional dollars in these programs.
Our plan for strategic renewal, and our financial stewardship in response to COVID-19, represent our collective opportunity to refocus our energies and investments in positioning USF for further success in the future. To that end, our immediate challenge – and one that we face together – is to work toward the convergence of recurring expenses and recurring revenue as a fundamental pillar of a flexible plan to support our academic priorities. Those commitments 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.
As such, today we are announcing the actions the university will take to align our process for strategic renewal and our budget strategy. To be clear, some steps will be arduous. But, as a community we will help one another navigate our future.
Our Principles of Community were put in place to guide precisely this type of process. In our budget discussions – which began in 2019 – our leadership team worked to be inclusive, thoughtful and deliberative in our approach. Consultations with our vice presidents and vice provosts, regional chancellors, deans, the Faculty Senate, and trustees, among others across our campuses, have been vital to our decision-making.
In early September we announced initial steps to pause employee hiring and increases in employee compensation. Today, we are announcing actions to balance USF’s budget and build for the future, beginning with salary reductions for USF’s senior leadership. President Currall is taking a voluntary 15% reduction in salary, with cuts for members of the university’s leadership team of 6% to 10%, effective October 2.
As these actions take effect during the next weeks and months, please know that we are committed to shared governance. We are in this together. Our Human Resources team has developed resources to help us take next steps and manage change.
Rising to meet a challenge is not new to USF. We have worked together through the enormous complexities of consolidation to deliver on a state mandate for reunification of our campuses. We emerged as One USF – the nation’s fastest rising university over the past decade according to U.S. News and World Report – with a focus on greater opportunities for our campuses and community and a clear mission to support the success of all students. And, through a spirit of partnership, we will redouble our efforts to invest in new and impactful ways to be of service to our region and state as a university where excellence and opportunity converge.
As talented and dedicated USF faculty, administrators and staff, you are central to our competitive advantage and essential to our success. Thank you for your support as we work together to build USF’s extraordinary future.
Additional steps in our financial plan are explained in detail on our Human Resources website.
Steve Currall, President
Ralph Wilcox, Executive Vice President and Provost
Charles Lockwood, Senior Vice President of USF Health and Dean of the Morsani College of Medicine
David Lechner, Senior Vice President for Business and Financial Strategy
Nick Trivunovich, Vice President of Business and Chief Financial Officer