The challenges of a deep recession and another 11% permanent reduction in state appropriations have resulted in a 3-year cumulative loss of state funding for ESL that has exceeded 27% totaling $672,000. Yet, we still achieved our finance pillar goal, operating with a strong positive bottom margin in 2009-2010. By targeting investments strategically to areas where we expect to see significant returns, ESL increased revenue by 5%, $454,260. The division lowered personnel costs by $62,761, and controlled operating costs by monitoring spending and periodically benchmarking inflation costs with the widely used college measurement, the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI).
Due to our fiscal stewardship and knowledge to make financially-savvy decisions, the division was pleased to provide $1.1 million in support of the University’s central initiatives and over $424,000 to fund the MUSC Student Government Association, student scholarships, and student employment.
In creating a new office of Research and Assessment through an award from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), we have hired part time an experienced and well-funded researcher, Suzanne Thomas, PhD, who will assist our division faculty and staff to identify and capture additional grant funds. With a background in experimental psychology, she is a researcher in the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs within the Department of Psychiatry. Her success as a scientist is shown by her publications and grantsmanship, and we look forward to the ways in which her expertise will improve our work and enhance funding through grants.
These ARRA funds have also helped us to further develop initiatives promoting healthy lifestyles in the MUSC community and particularly for student health and wellness. By targeting these funds to improve the MUSC Wellness Center, we aim to strengthen its ability to make Charleston and MUSC healthier communities. At the same time, we expect these initiatives ultimately to provide nearly $300,000 in net return on investment, helping the state and local economy by creating or maintaining five jobs – making wellness a physical and fiscal win-win.
ESL strives to be a responsible budgetary steward, and our Office of Financial Aid strives to assist students as they tackle their own budget challenges. In May 2010, the office began implementing a more automated set of processes including a conversion from the Federal Family Education Loan Program to the Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program.
These changes will ensure continued access to funds for our students while simplifying the steps they must take to apply for aid and improving communication with them about the awards they receive. Converting to a new system is never easy, but the Financial Aid Office has managed the process well and in a timely fashion. Students will appreciate the differences though they may not have seen the behind-the-scenes efforts on their behalf.
While some states actually increased appropriations for higher education (shown in blues), a wide majority of US states saw a drastic decrease in state appropriations (shown in reds).
Source: "Grapevine" annual survey, Illinois State U. and State Higher Education Executive Officers
We understand the financial landscape has changed for universities across the country. Because the economic recovery is expected to be slow, we anticipate South Carolina will continue to suffer budgetary challenges, diminishing further the support we receive through state appropriations.
At the same time, our students’ and their families’ budgets are being stretched as well, making an increase in student fees an undesirable prospect. Instead, for the coming year, ESL will fully embrace entrepreneurship, continually seek ways to reduce its costs through automating and streamlining services, and diligently work to tap new revenue streams.