As I mentioned during the Spring Forum last week –an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous future, requires vision, understanding, clarity and agility. I am proud of how our campus community has met the challenges so far and continue to make student success a priority.
Let me lay out some of the near term challenges, a timeline for planning and decision-making, and a call to action.
Determining Near Term Challenges
We are considering two broad scenarios for the fall. In one - the university opens with certain restrictions based on guidelines from the Governor’s office and public health officials. In the other – the university remains in primarily virtual operations and instruction.
As we consider the actions mentioned above, our goal is to minimize any reduction in force and preserve our talent. As we work through the scenarios, please know all salaries are protected through the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.
Our challenge is to align those scenarios with an expectation of the resulting budgetary impact. We anticipate that in the scenario in which the campus is largely open, the fiscal impact will be challenging but manageable. In the latter scenario, our expectation is that the fiscal impact would be significant and will require some very difficult choices. In either case, we can also expect a mid-year state appropriation reduction.
As far as summer is concerned, we have made the decision to conduct all summer classes virtually. We will continue with the virtual continuity of operations mode through the end of June. Beginning in July, we may explore a phased and gradual shift to on-campus operations in certain key areas. The COVID preparedness team will explore this possibility and we will communicate any updates to the campus.
We will need to build a contingency budget plan that accounts for at least a $10 million deficit. In addition to reducing expenses, it must also focus on administrative efficiencies, seek differentiation and revenue opportunities, and make changes to academic and administrative programs, services and structures. All while finding ways to preserve and protect our ability to deliver on our mission and realize our vision.
A Tentative Timeline for Decisions
We are taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to outline our fall scenario based on what we know and can anticipate. One way we are accomplishing this is to engage our region’s leaders. Next week, we are bringing together health, community and business
leaders in the region— including the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Chambers of Commerce— to discuss the options and parameters we must consider to resume on-campus instruction and operations. This conversation will help us understand our constraints and allow us to be prepared to adapt as the environment changes.
Mike Hales will lead the effort to develop a contingency budget plan for review by the Budget Executive Committee, Cabinet and myself. Given the gravity of the budgetary impact, I look to engage a group of faculty and staff in this effort. Below is a timeline of key events. Please note that these are fluid and subject to change as circumstances warrant. We will communicate any changes as promptly as we can.
As the timeline demonstrates, the COVID Preparedness Team will review all the considerations to develop proposed scenarios for Cabinet by June 1. This will include the information provided by the regional leaders, as well as feedback from the campus. Similarly the ad-hoc group will develop contingencies for the FY21 budget aligned with the proposed scenarios. Cabinet will present me with a recommendation, but it must take into account the voice of the campus and community.
Call to Action
We are not simply determining an operational structure for fall, we are designing a more student-ready regionally-engaged university. We are on a quest to redefine stewardship of place for a post-COVID world.
Regardless of the delivery mode of learning experiences we offer, our unwavering commitment to supporting diverse learners must ensure that we meet and exceed our retention, persistence, graduation and achievement gap targets. In the fall, and for the foreseeable future, we must be focused on how we can support restart and reset efforts for equitable economic development in the region.
This summer, I hope you will take advantage of several college and institutional faculty and staff professional development opportunities that will address the questions I raised last week during the Spring Forum. Your engagement in those conversations and activities will lead to a more resilient, innovative and flexible version of ourselves. More information about the summer professional development academies will be forthcoming.
I have said this many times, but it is worth repeating. I am both proud and impressed by the ways our faculty, staff and NKU community are stepping up to support our students. These are extraordinary times, and they require an extra dose of flexibility and engagement. To ensure a successful future for NKU, we need all hands-on deck. I am confident that we will join together to build a stronger university.
Thank you for your continued commitment to NKU. Be safe, healthy and well.