National economy shapes college budget

Saint Joseph's College is not immune to the economic challenges facing the United States and the world. Like many institutions and corporations, the college found it necessary to re-evaluate its revenue projections and spending plans for the current year and beyond, and to plan for reductions in both. As a result, in late January the college announced budget adjustments that will save $1 million. Saint Joseph's announced its decisions later than many colleges in the belief that getting it right was far more important than doing it quickly.

Our initial focus was to eliminate spending in operational, non-personnel budgets and a broad and in-depth analysis produced savings of approximately $500,000 per year. It is important to note that no reductions were made in financial assistance and scholarships awarded to current students.

Recognizing that more cost savings were required, the President, working with his senior staff, determined that it was necessary to eliminate 14 staff positions. The staff reductions affected several departments: facilities, human resources, information technology, the treasurer's office, athletics, security, service learning and financial aid. "A study of growth in college staffing levels during the last five years, and an analysis of staffing levels in Saint Joseph's peer institutions, were helpful in making these decisions," said President Joe Lee. There were no reductions in faculty positions.

The administration tried to minimize the impact of staff and budget reductions on the college's operations and to ease the transition for affected employees. Remaining employees across the board have shown a willingness to "take up the slack." Each departing regular full-time employee received a severance package that included pay continuation for four weeks, plus an additional week for each full year of service, a three-month subsidy for COBRA health insurance premiums if elected, continuation of tuition benefits for their children currently receiving them, offer of future tuition remission through September 2013 to one or two dependent children based on years of service, and help in job searches from the career services office.

Given the challenges the college faces, it is timely that Saint Joseph's recently began a new strategic planning process to chart its future course. The Strategic Plan of 2009 will be designed to deploy college resources in ways that effectively meet the needs of 21st-century students while realistically taking into account the changed financial and demographic landscape in which Saint Joseph's will operate.

Although the recent budget reductions created stress for the entire Saint Joseph's community, these critical decisions will strengthen the college financially as it faces the future.

- William McCarthy, Director of Marketing & Public Relations