As our spring 2017 semester proceeds in its second week, please accept this note as my sincere expression of appreciation for the great work that is done across the campus, in classrooms and laboratories and offices, as we all work together to make this a successful experience for our students. January is always a very important time for the University. The winter break sees our students return to their homes, and our hope is to keep retention from fall to spring as high as possible. Every helpful moment that our faculty and staff gives to a student contributes to their positive experience and enhances the prospect of their return in the following semester. I hear about some of those special connections which students experience, almost every day. As we begin the new year, below is an update regarding some of Shepherd’s critical programs, as well as select new initiatives, for your consideration:
- Our Enrollment Management division has worked to create a special visual presentation of the University. This exciting new video is presented on the Admissions Office website: http://www.shepherd.edu/admissions. Please take 100 seconds to watch the video, and then share it with others as you deem appropriate. I start every morning with this video, which inspires me the rest of the day.
- This year will have a special focus on maximizing efficiencies as we work to provide our services while striving to keep college affordable! As we continue to help guide the Legislature to provide more support for Shepherd from the State, we know it is important to also help ourselves by being the best stewards possible of the resources that are made available to us. Some of our important initiatives toward this effort include the following:
- For years, the University has over-relied on the use of the State Purchasing Cards (credit cards) for every form of transaction that is eligible for such cards. However, the use of the Purchasing Card has become very “high-maintenance” for the card-holders, and the fees that are associated with use of the card are often an unnecessary drain against our budget. The Finance Office has worked this fall to eliminate this fiscal and personnel expense from our internal transactions: For example, internal purchases of supplies and catering, among others, should now be done via budget transfers. For greater details on the new procedures, please see the campus-wide email from Debra Langford distributed on December 5.
- The Procurement Office will also be working this year to expand the efficiencies which our office staff can gain in the procurement of routine supplies such as paper, pens, notebooks, etc. We will also engage academic and administrative departments in assessment of the large number of photocopy machines and desk-top printers, with the hope of exploring financial efficiencies that can also add to personal productivity and work efficiency for our faculty and staff.
- The WV Governor granted the final approval required for Shepherd to proceed with the refinancing of its 2005 Series and 2007 Series Bonds. The lower, fixed interest rate will allow the University to reduce its annual debt service by more than $220,000 per year. We can roll that savings into some of our needed facilities and capital equipment improvements, rather than having to spend tuition revenue for such matters.
- The Executive Leadership Team has agreed to restrain discretionary administrative travel to achieve some one-time savings in the current fiscal year. Among other examples, we are asking the WV HEPC for telephonic and skype participation in as many meetings as is viable, to avoid mileage and hotel expenses.
- One of the new revenue generating initiatives will be establishing Shepherd University as a Testing Center for the administration of several national tests, including ACT, SAT and ETS.
- Efficiency initiatives remain extremely important for Shepherd this year. The lower enrollment and lower State appropriations of the past four years have created significant financial constraints. The Annual Budget approved by the Board of Governors last spring was built on a projection of an incremental increase in total revenue for the year, based upon enrollment parallel to FY’16. However, our fall enrollment was lower than anticipated, resulting in lower tuition and residence hall revenues; the State also rescinded our appropriation by almost $200,000 on January 1, 2017. Our initiatives toward efficiencies will reduce some of the erosion in the University’s budget position, but we must continue to strive to minimize our cash losses for the year and build toward a financially stable FY’18. Our current spring student enrollment is at 3,200 students, and we need to significantly improve this number to maintain a healthy financial bottom line.
- With the conclusion of the add-drop week, I am excited to share some encouraging information on our progress in turning the corner on our enrollment challenges. Now, the preliminary enrollment information shows proportional improvements in retention of enrolled students, from fall 2016 to spring 2017, over prior years. Our spring enrollment of continuing students from the fall improved by more than five percentage points from last year and from our historical pattern. We are also seeing continuing growth in the number of transfer students, which confirms that the efforts of faculty and staff to enhance our relationships with the region’s community colleges are producing positive results.
- We have had some outstanding meetings with area legislators as they prepare for the next Legislative Session in Charleston. We are encouraged by their recognition that Shepherd needs improved funding and more flexibility to manage its affairs in a way that will benefit our students and our employees. Some of the most important leaders of the Legislature live and work directly in our service area in the Eastern Panhandle. Their support for us is gratifying and encouraging.
- As I have met with our Board members and with members of the Legislature during the past few weeks, I have also directly emphasized that the faculty and staff at Shepherd have been working extremely hard and producing record numbers of graduates, while receiving very modest levels of salary increases during the past eight years. I am very disappointed that I have not been able to address a campus-wide salary increase, due to the depth of the budget challenges. However, we are committed to making the progress that will be necessary to allow Shepherd to dedicate at least $450,000 in the FY’18 budget toward a minimum of at least a 2% salary increase.
As we make solid progress in new initiatives and in rebuilding the enrollment levels lost for several years, it is vitally important for each of you to know that you are an essential component of the successes of our students. The University remains committed to making this a cherished place for you to work. I appreciate all that you do to advance Excellence, Innovation, and Opportunity at Shepherd University, as we train the next generation together.
With deep appreciation for your collective efforts,
Mary J.C. Hendrix