By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
The university’s operating budget saw about a $6 million positive swing last year to end the year with more than a $1 million surplus, said Phil Schubert, vice president of finance.
Total net worth, which also takes into account investment earnings and gifts to the university, also climbed $18 million during last year to $234 million—one of the stronger years on record in the past 15 years, Schubert said.
Two years ago, projections showed that the budget deficit would continue to grow, reaching about $4.5 to $5 million. Acting quickly in response to the projections, administrators implemented many cost-cutting strategies across the university, many of which became official last year, to help put the university in the operating surplus.
“We feel great about where we are,” Schubert said. “It doesn’t mean we have enough resources to do everything we’d like to do. But it does mean we’ve gotten past that immediate hurdle.
“It’s where we need to be to seriously think about the future.”
One addressed need was salaries for faculty, who did not receive raises last year as part of the cost-cutting strategies.
Schubert said the university made a plan and commitment to raise faculty salaries closer to the averages of comparable universities around the country. The university committed $4.5 million for three years to do just that, Schubert said.
As part of the plan, the university dedicated an additional $500,000 this year to increase salaries closer to the average. Much of that was focused on faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, whose salaries were farther from the average of comparable universities.
“People are beginning to see we are committed to that, and we’re going to continue to commit to the remaining two years of that plan,” Schubert said.
Dr. Colleen Durrington, dean of CAS, said she has had comments from her faculty who have recognized that commitment.
“I have had several faculty members who have commented they were very grateful for the raise they received and for the commitment of the university to make salaries at ACU more equitable,” Durrington said.
Durrington said the funds were spread around the college, focusing on departments that did not compare to similar departments.
The next goal, Schubert said, was to meet with the Board of Trustees, which happened this weekend, to begin crafting a new vision for the university that will replace the centennial vision.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re looking through a pretty clear lens at a future that doesn’t have a lot of known problems on the horizon,” Schubert said. “We’ve positioned the university to look forward to what we want to accomplish—not at overcoming problems or challenges before us.”