As we begin developing the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 (FY22), our commitment to becoming a student-ready, regionally engaged university that empowers diverse learners for economic and social mobility will continue to be our focus. We know that COVID-19 exposed significant weaknesses in our nation, most especially on vulnerable sections of our society. For us, delivering on our Success by Design strategic framework is an even more urgent imperative.
While we continue to address the fiscal challenges due to the pandemic, we resolved one of the most significant financial uncertainties confronting the university – the pension crisis. At the special Board meeting earlier this month, the Regents approved a resolution to exit the university from KERS but allow our Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees to stay in the system. We believe this decision was the best option for the financial health of the university as well as the financial and emotional well-being of our employees. The decision also reflects an investment in our people demonstrating a belief that attracting, supporting and retaining the most capable and motivated individuals will produce the change needed to move the university forward in an increasingly uncertain and complex world.
While we move into Spring 2021, we need to plan for a post-COVID world. That will require us to reimagine what student success looks like post-COVID, including identifying where our future investments will be directed and what future strategic partnerships to develop and which current partnerships to grow. We know that digital transformation – the ability to create new educational and operational models - will be one area that we will look to invest in. Areas such as Chatbots and Esports are examples of these investments that we have already begun and expect immediate returns. With limited resources, it means we need to focus not just on enhancing current levels of effectiveness, but to redirect resources from activities, programs and services that are not directly tied to student success.
The following is an overview of the FY22 budget development timeline:
For the FY22 budget process, our focus will be primarily on critical areas for investment that are in line with advancing our student success goals. It also means we need divisions and colleges to use entrepreneurial thinking to identify new revenue opportunities and cost savings that can supplement the operating needs.
Throughout the budget process, we will solicit ideas and suggestions to keep the campus community engaged and informed. We will consult with Staff Congress, Faculty Senate, Student Government Association, Council of Chairs, Academic Affairs Council and the relevant budget committees. All suggestions and ideas will be considered as we develop a budget recommendation for approval by the Board of Regents in May 2021.
The following principles will guide the development of the budget:
1. Preserve the university’s academic priorities centered on student success. Continue to emphasize instructional programs that are innovative, distinctive, experiential and interdisciplinary, as well as programs that respond to student demand and support the needs of our region.
2. Invest in our people. Find ways to reinvest in the growth and development of our employees and recognize their achievements. We will review our performance management processes to find ways to align our incentives to ensure that student success outcomes are achieved.
3. Position NKU for both short- and long-term success. Make thoughtful, data-informed decisions that ensure a firm foundation for the next fiscal year while providing the flexibility to align resources with the university’s strategic framework process.
4. Be bold and innovative when prioritizing functions and activities for investment. Avoid across-the-board budget increases or decreases. Utilize the input and ideas discovered throughout the strategic framework process to shape these priorities.
5. Create greater efficiencies and effectiveness across campus. Look for efficiencies, cost savings, and productivity improvements while maintaining expected service levels. These activities should align with achieving the outcomes of the strategic framework process. We have engaged ABC Insights to perform work on benchmarking our administrative units with comparable universities to identify areas for increased efficiencies. We anticipate receiving the benchmarking data in the next few months and implementing changes needed to maximize our productivity and align with our student success goals.
6. Take an incentive-based approach to allocating university resources. Continue to incentivize the enrollment, retention, persistence and graduation of more students, as well as to generate alternative revenue streams across the campus. NKU’s SBD is well aligned with the state performance funding model which is the basis of the state appropriations we receive. The model has been in place for three years and the performance funding workgroup has endorsed the model going forward with a recommendation to avoid base reallocations between institutions.
Thank you all for all the hard work and dedication that goes into the creation of our annual budget. I look forward to working with you on this endeavor.