$3.8 million shortfall changes Webster spending


Although undergraduate enrollment has grown since last year, Webster University’s financial goals are stretched for the fiscal year.
The university is expecting a $3.8 million shortfall in net tuition and fee revenue for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. However, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Greg Gunderson said students should not be directly impacted. Mid-fiscal year adjustments on spending are now being made to help manage costs and the budget. The hope is this new adjustment will dispense minimal impact on operations, students, faculty and staff.

Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster, said the university bases their current budget on aggressive revenue projections, which are directly dependent on the strength of our enrollments.
Gunderson said while it is important to note that enrollment grew from last year, it fell short of the university’s stretch goals. The university sets stretch goals in the budget. They are designed to advance Webster’s strategic plan and enrollment growth.

“The European debt crisis and a slower economic recovery in the United States are factors that likely influenced students timing in enrollment,” Gunderson said. “A slower economic recovery likely played a key role in our evening graduate student populations and our international enrollment.”

Schuster said the administration is taking mid-year management action to offset the negative tuition budget variances. He said the university could maintain adequate operating levels by adjusting spending and placing an emphasis on enrollment management.

Barbara O’Malley, associate vice president and chief communications officer of global marketing and communications, said there are several ways the university plans to adjust spending.

“Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and Finance have aggressively been working with students to help them succeed,” O’Malley said. “This is resulting in increased retention rates.”

O’Malley also said employee retirement will allow the university to rehire positions at a lower salary level. This saves on salary and benefit expenditures.

“Consolidation of underutilized course sections is being used to ensure continued access to classes from a student perspective, yet it is mindful of the efficiency in academic course scheduling,” O’Malley said.

With this adjustment on spending, Gunderson is confident the university will do its best to avoid price increases.
O’Malley said tuition for the 2012-2013 fiscal year will not be impacted by the shortcomings of the current fiscal year.

“Tuition rates at Webster are set based on our mission and strategic vision,” Gunderson said. “Every effort is taken to minimize price increases. I am confident this trend will continue.”

Gunderson said that in Spring 1, Academic Affairs undertook a series of initiatives to improve graduate enrollment. He said early data indicates these measures have brought our domestic enrollment in line with Webster’s stretch goals.

“With continued success we can close a significant amount of this shortfall still this year,” Gunderson said.

The university is looking to further improve its financial health in the future.

“Overall, the university is committed to and has forecast the 2012 fiscal year to end with and increase in net assets, a strong operating performance and a positive cash flow position,” Schuster said.

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