Dear Clemson Faculty and Staff,
The state of the economy is on everyone’s mind as we go about the daily business of teaching and learning at Clemson University. However, it is not "business as usual" at Clemson.
We have been monitoring economic developments for months and know we face tremendous challenges. In higher education, we may feel the gravity of the situation more deeply than any other state agency, because the national financial crisis could impact every source of revenue we have, not just state appropriations. Families are struggling and the student loan industry is stressed, which could impact enrollment and tuition revenue. Private giving and our private endowment are being impacted by the volatility on Wall Street. Federal research funding may be restricted, and the credit market could impact the availability and cost of debt for construction projects.
Yesterday, the State Board of Economic Advisors revised state revenue estimates downward by 6 percent, in addition to the 2 percent cut in July – for a total projected state revenue reduction of 8% this year, or $554 million.
I wanted to communicate with you directly about how Clemson University will deal with these realities, and to ask for your help in that process. Each of us has been affected, or will be, in some way.
Our response will be based on making strategic decisions guided by our priorities, not across-the-board cuts. We will not whine and we will not abandon our long-term goal of improving the quality and value of a Clemson degree. However, near-term tactics and decisions will change. These cuts will be felt.
Budget centers have been given targets to meet through a combination of reduced costs and enhanced revenue. Some faculty and staff searches have been cancelled. Other tools being explored are a shorter workweek; strategic hiring; and selective elimination of vacant positions. Some activities, investments and services will be eliminated. Long-range planning should and will continue, including planned campus developments, but progress will be determined by what is financially feasible in the current environment.
Focusing on the opportunities that exist even in crisis can bring positive change. One example is Maymester, which was born during a previous budget crunch. We needed to make better use of facilities and to increase summer school revenue. It turned out to add great value to a Clemson education.
I ask for your help in identifying ways to save money, or increase revenue, while remaining focused on Clemson's values and mission. Within your department, use this time to identify improvements that don’t depend on new funding. Are there creative ideas such as Maymester? Are there opportunities for joint programs, or joint hires?
Share your ideas with colleagues and your department leaders, or send them directly to me. I plan to immediately appoint a team to develop strategies, with campus input, to deal with our budget situation. This will allow Clemson to protect quality and maintain momentum.
We can take comfort in the fact that Clemson University was born in an era of extreme economic depression and contributed to ending that misery. More recently, we have made genuine progress in our goals despite several difficult budget years since 2000.
I’m not sure whether I am an optimistic realist, or a realistic optimist. Either way, I know we face real difficulties ahead, but I believe Clemson will once again emerge as a stronger, more focused institution, with your help.
Thank you, as always, for everything you do to make Clemson a better university.