Written by Alyssa Wilson ~ Editor-in-Chief
Photo retrieved from https://magazine.lynchburg.edu/article/president-alison-unmasked/ by Alyssa Wilson
The University of Lynchburg is kicking off the 2022-2023 school year with a new strategic plan, improved enrollment and a deficit.
As higher education institutions around the country step into a new post-covid normal, Lynchburg is facing a $12 million financial shortfall that is of concern to some in the campus community.
What is driving this deficit?
President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar says the projected financial deficit for this fiscal year is primarily due to three things:
- There has been a smaller decline in overall undergraduate enrollment through attrition and graduation than the number of students that school is currently bringing in.
- A small decline in graduate enrollment.
- Various unavoidable increases in expenses.
President Morrison-Shetlar and her team have been working to make a plan over the past year to address these concerns. However, during the summer break leaders across the university’s faculty and staff worked together to identify ways to create a realistic budget by fiscal year 2026.
This group hopes to reduce annual spending by $4.5 million in the coming fiscal year.
“We will ultimately balance the budget by increasing revenues, realizing efficiencies in our processes, cutting expenses, and breaking down silos and barriers to collaborate in all of our procedures and policies,” says President Morrison-Shetlar.
A number of units within the University have started to begin the process of restructuring their staffing and budgets, most notably in Student Development and Enrollment, Marketing and Communications.
For this year alone, the University has already implemented a 20% reduction in controllable operating expenses.
How is the University making a change?
President Morrison-Shetlar is optimistic that this deficit is nothing to worry about, the school’s ultimate goal is to continue providing the best experience for all students.
The University is asking all faculty and staff to look into their departments and organizations to answer these questions:
- Do we have the right people with the talents and support they need to succeed?
- Can we consolidate and collaborate across boundaries to better support our students and one another?
- Are there redundancies and duplication of services?
All units within the University have been doing the work to answer these questions within their departments and are making strides towards their goals.
President Morrison-Shetlar says, “The quality of the student experience – both in and out of the classroom – is our number one priority as work to mitigate the budget deficit.”
With this, she has charged faculty and staff to consistently turn back to those three questions, but most importantly to make sure that what they are doing is supporting, building, and aligning with the student experience.
The President’s goals
The ultimate goal is for the budget to be balanced come 2026, with an additional goal of 1,900 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students.
The budget has been declining in recent years in part due to low undergraduate enrollment. Forty percent of the University’s budget comes from room and board fees, so with declining enrollment, the budget will inevitably decline.
President Morrison-Shetlar wants to enroll more students each year and increase the retention rate to 80%. The current retention rate is 79%.
The University is approaching this financial deficit strategically and with intention. A copy of the strategic plan can be viewed here.