College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu sent the following message to the campus community on June 9, 2020:
Dear Campus Community,
I wanted to share with you a few updates from our Board of Trustees meeting earlier today.
- At this time of the year, the trustees usually vote on tuition and fees for the fall and spring semesters while also setting the College’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.The trustees voted unanimously to approve a tuition freeze, the first such freeze in nearly a decade. The board’s decision was driven by their recognition of the financial impact that students and their families are dealing with during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has taken a tremendous toll not only on our collective health and psyche, but our economy as well. I appreciate and applaud the Board of Trustees for not increasing tuition. While College administrators will need to be even more creative in dealing with rising costs, not raising tuition is the right thing to do for our students and families.
- The trustees approved two very modest increases within room and board: a 2.65 percent increase in the rates for the College’s middle-rate residence halls and a 2.24 percent increase in the cost of meal plans.
- Because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and expected state revenues, the state legislature has not made budget allocations as of yet. Therefore, the trustees approved a three-month continuing resolution for the College’s budget (similar to what other state agencies have needed to do). The Board of Trustees will meet in late August or early September to vote on a full-year budget, with the hope that the College will better know its state appropriations as well as the numbers of actual incoming and returning students.
As I have shared with campus on numerous occasions this past year, the College needs to address its financial house, so to speak, in order to not only survive, but thrive. A critical part of that is addressing rising expenses against revenue declines. Regardless of COVID-19, things have to change at the College. And that starts with our budgeting right now.
Like you, I am committed to helping this institution realize its full potential. Our strategic plan lays the groundwork for student success, employee success and national distinction. However, part of that calculus is strategic budgeting and bringing spending under control.
In order for the College to do this, we must find savings. The College has seen a steady increase over the last 15 years in its faculty and staff size. And when that increase is laid on top of a declining enrollment and tuition freezes, the revenue and cost structure become imbalanced. Our student-to-faculty ratio went from 16:1 to 14.4:1 and our staff-to-student ratio went from 11:1 to 8.4:1. As 70 percent of the College’s overall budget is tied to personnel, that is an area that must be addressed.
- One of the ways we will do that is by decreasing our temporary and adjunct spend by approximately 10 percent, which we hope to achieve largely through natural attrition. Division heads and deans will work to develop their staffing plans in the coming days and weeks.
- The College will also initiate a voluntary separation program, allowing eligible employees the opportunity to separate from the College with a severance package. These are important steps in both righting and right-sizing the institution.
In closing, I want to say thank you to everyone for your continued commitment to the College. I know we are navigating uncertain waters, both as it relates to COVID-19 and also the changing demands of higher education. But I know that we have the talent and the strength to transform this university so that its past 250 years serves as a prelude to the even greater things ahead.
Andrew T. Hsu, Ph.D.
College of Charleston