Balancing Drexel's Budget: A Q&A With Helen Bowman
February 24, 2014
By Matt Erickson
Ever had an idea for how to make things run more smoothly and efficiently at Drexel? Well, now’s the time to share it.
Earlier this month, in a message to faculty and professional staff, President John Fry asked for ideas for reducing the University’s expenses or increasing its revenue. Employees can share suggestions via this online form.
Receiving those suggestions is Helen Bowman, Drexel’s senior vice president for finance. DrexelNow talked with Bowman to address some questions that faculty and professional staff may have.
Why are you asking for these ideas?
Drexel must maintain its momentum and implement the priorities outlined in its strategic plan. But we can’t continue to raise tuition and fees at historical levels, as we are already one of the country’s most expensive universities. And our moderately sized endowment makes us virtually dependent on tuition revenue.
All that means is that by fiscal year 2015, we need to close a sizable projected gap in the budget. That can be accomplished through a combination of increased revenues and reduced expenses. And the best people to help us accomplish that are the colleagues most familiar with the University’s programs and operations: our faculty and professional staff.
Does this mean there will be layoffs?
We can’t make promises about that at this time. But the purpose of this exercise is not to eliminate jobs. It’s important to consider that increased revenue will close our budget gap just as effectively as reduced expenses. And when we cut expenses, we will favor other ways to become more efficient rather than reducing employment.
Should we need to reduce the number of staff positions in our budget, we’ll first look to eliminate vacant positions rather than filled ones. And if any employees’ jobs are eliminated, we will make every effort to move those employees to other open positions within the University.
Will my benefits or merit-based pay increases be at risk?
Again, we can make no promises at this point about what changes will be necessary. But rest assured that Drexel strives, and will continue to strive, to be competitive with its compensation and benefits for faculty and professional staff.
How much has Drexel’s Strategic Transformation of Administrative Resources (STAR) Review helped to improve the budget situation?
Through our STAR Review, we’ve been working to increase revenues and efficiency by improving such things as retention and graduation rates and the stewardship and management of our resources. We have plans in place to accomplish those things — including our transformative Student Lifecycle Management initiative, which will boost our revenues — but those are long-term improvements that will pay off years down the road. This effort to balance our budget for the 2015 fiscal year requires more immediate solutions.
What kinds of suggestions are you asking for?
We want ideas of all sizes, big or small, from every corner of Drexel. We want our faculty and professional staff to be involved with this process, and we will welcome any suggestions for cutting costs or boosting revenue.
The online form is completely anonymous, and suggestions will be seen only by me, so there’s no need to hold back on sharing bold ideas. But small suggestions are welcome, too. If we can tackle this issue collaboratively, with a broad base of input — as we’ve done successfully in many areas in recent years — we can produce innovative ideas to help us meet this challenge and keep Drexel on the road to continued success.