Shippensburg University is committed to taking necessary steps towards financial sustainability through a well-balanced strategic approach. The University Planning and Budget Council assists in realizing this goal.
Throughout Fall 2019, the Planning and Budget Council met regularly to address the structural budget deficit of approximately 8 million dollars. The Council also worked to develop and submit the university’s first round Financial Sustainability Planning required by the State System of Higher Education on January 17, 2020. The Council conducted an environmental landscape analysis of Shippensburg University’s revenue and cost infrastructure, identifying areas in which Shippensburg could increase operational efficiencies to better align resources while continuing to focus on enrollment stability and growth. While the Council was successful in closing the budget deficit that existed, there was recognition of the fact that ongoing work would be required to better align the organizational structure and institutional spending with the University’s mission and priorities. We had begun to look at those factors when the State System announced a second round of financial sustainability planning and the pandemic struck.
In response to the directive from the System Office, the Council has shifted its focus to preparing contingency budgets for the next academic year. Although Shippensburg University’s admissions reports show stable enrollment, the Council analyzed the many factors that could impact Fall 2020 enrollment and thus revenue. As such, the financial plans to balance the university budget were analyzed based on hypothetical enrollment declines of five and fifteen percent. The additional 10% enrollment reduction was a requirement by the System office. Budgets for both scenarios were framed using strategic reductions made with the highest priority placed on student success. The hard work of completing this second round of Financial Sustainability Planning was collaborative and kept student success and the academic enterprise as strategic priorities. The Council successfully balanced the budget for both scenarios and the university submitted this plan to the State System of Higher Education on June 19, 2020.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. This second round of Financial Sustainability reflects the new normal Shippensburg University faces. Additionally, the university continues to incur unanticipated expenses due to refunds, lost revenue, and necessary costs for preparing the school for safe face-to-face instruction. This surge in university expenditures has been met by federal monies that higher education has received from the CARES Act, strategic reductions across the university and drawing from university reserves.
The Planning and Budget Council continues to respond to immediate and exigent circumstances and remains focused on the need to better align the budget with university’s priorities to ensure Shippensburg University’s long-term financial sustainability and fulfilling the Council’s fiduciary responsibilities. The promise of a quality education at an affordable price requires that the Council continue to review expenditure at all levels, and to ensure the university budget reflects Shippensburg’s values and mission.