Hello Sycamores,

Today I am providing this message to our campus to talk about activities we are undertaking to begin planning our fiscal year 2024 university budget which begins on July 1, 2023.

Public higher education has basically three sources of potential funding. The first is tuition and fees, the second is state appropriations, and the third is philanthropy and fundraising. We are grateful for the state’s investment and for the generosity of our donors. In our future-focused actions, we need to address the well-being of all three of these potential sources.

As we turn the corner from the global pandemic of the past two years, this is a great opportunity to lift up some positive indicators in these categories of funding. These bright spots are the result of a lot of hard work.

Our Indiana State Advantage program, focused on building the freshman class, saw some promising results. Seven percent more freshmen than last year chose ISU for their college destination this fall.

This state budget session we are requesting a $66 million dollar renovation and expansion of the Technology Annex Building in the College of Technology. This project will provide a refreshed and enhanced 21st Century teaching and learning facility for our students, faculty and staff.

The public launch of our Be So Bold comprehensive campaign for Indiana State University began with the announcement of a $100 million goal. The quiet phase of this campaign has already accomplished 69% of that goal to date.

Our students and faculty are the beneficiaries of this campaign work with a large portion of these funds going to student scholarships, faculty research, and multiple namings of facilities that direct funding to programs and experiential learning, to name just a few.

In addition, we are pleased to report that once again Indiana State University has been nationally recognized for our commitment to positively impacting the social mobility of our graduates.

You may have read that two separate surveys ranked ISU among the best in the country, including Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index ranking ISU in the top 12% of the nation, and CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index ranking ISU in the top 17% in the country.

This means that students who come to ISU from low income backgrounds leave here after graduation with low debt, taking their place in the middle class of this great state.

These are just a few of the reasons to be excited about the work that we do here every day at ISU. Building upon this evidence of success, it’s time to direct our attention to envisioning our future. We know who we are as a university, and we now need to focus on who we will be in the near and distant future.

Certainly you have read about, and often have heard our ISU leadership describe, the current environment for higher education in this state and across the country. One more time, here are the facts: Indiana’s college-going rate as well as number of high school graduates is declining. Fewer low income and underrepresented students returned to or started college following the pandemic. Many in the broader public have once again begun to question the value of a college education. These facts merge into a set of challenges we now face.

To confront these challenges, we will continue to work our plan and strive to be the best Indiana State University we can be. That is what our students need, and that is what the State of Indiana needs from us. The actions found in our strategic plan continue to chart the course for our next steps.

During fiscal years 20 through 22, ISU prioritized keeping as many people employed as possible. It was the right thing to do and we made sure that happened. At this juncture as we emerge from the global pandemic, it’s time to pivot to a sustainable budgeting model for the near and distant future for our work together here at ISU. We need to build a model that will sustain us and set us up for future successes both now and into the future.

Envisioning who we will be requires realignment of our structure, programs, and resource allocation decisions to meet our future needs and live within our means. In the past few years we have made such budget adjustments without layoffs seen at other institutions, yet at this time it is likely that this will no longer be possible.

In the weeks ahead, all divisions led by our vice presidents will undergo discussions and planning activities to rethink how we deliver on our mission to educate and graduate students.  Administrative, academic, and staff reorganizations will be evaluated thoroughly.

Achieving this outcome requires a reset of resources and priorities based upon our number of students and the need to deliver higher education to different types of students in different ways.

We’ve already begun to increase outreach to place-bound adult learners. These fellow citizens of ours have unlimited potential and need a college credential to take advantage of the high-demand workforce opportunities in Indiana where they can advance in their personal and professional lives. We know how to do this.

As we adjust our approach, we remain focused on our efforts to fill the state’s workforce pipeline. We maintain our long-standing commitment to being the state’s most affordable four-year university that serves a statewide mission. And at the same time, we will continue to invite students to live and learn on this beautiful campus here in the Wabash Valley.

As we plan, it is important to keep in mind that budget adjustments are not a static target but a range that fluctuates with enrollment, state appropriations and other factors.

Having said that, we have been budgeting for reduced revenue the past several years, and we will do that again with this FY 24 budget.  There are no longer federal funds being provided to fill the gaps as in the past two years. We will reduce our expenses for next year’s budget to meet the projected income from tuition, state appropriations, and other sources by at least $12 million dollars.

With your engagement, we can do this.

Recently, I read an observation from another leader in higher education who said, “This idea of re-evaluating your resources and reallocating your resources has always been a part of running any organization, whether it be for-profit or not-for-profit. But higher education has always been add, add, add and very rarely cut, cut or reallocate, and those days are gone.”

This is where we are at Indiana State University. We are facing a challenge, and we are prepared to meet it head on.

Vice presidents of each division will engage with their staff colleagues to analyze and make decisions focused on the realignment of resources discussed earlier.  Please remember that these activities are not just about reallocation or resources, they are also about becoming the best university we can envision for the future of Indiana State in this post-pandemic environment.

Dr. Chris Olsen, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, will have conversations with academic units to elaborate further on what’s ahead.

Our decisions will be guided by the imperative to create a more efficient, leaner, better-focused university for the 21st century. We are pursuing curriculum reform to create majors that are more in line with the needs of employers and students, and more consistently and effectively delivered with the faculty we have.

As always, Indiana State University will meet the current challenges with optimism for the future.  We have done this before.  In our early history as a university, we were chartered in 1865 yet planned for five-years when we enrolled students in 1870. We rebounded from a catastrophic fire in 1888, two world wars in the 20th century, and a global pandemic in the 21st century. Similar to our founding timeline, we entered these difficult times in fiscal year 2020, and will emerge better and stronger with this fiscal year 2024 budget plan.

We have so much to be proud of and grateful for at ISU. I believe in this university, its world-class faculty, our exceptional staff, and particularly our inspirational students. The solution is in the doing. I look forward to doing this important work together.

Thank you for everything you do to make ISU a great university and the special place that it is.