President Soltz Releases Letter Concerning Hiring Freeze, Economic Issues Hitting BU
Late this morning, President Soltz issued a letter to students addressing the questions he has received over the past weeks concerning the hiring freeze instituted by PASSHE.
Dear Members of the Campus Community:
As I write this letter, there’s a feeling of hope and optimism that is spreading over our country, carried on the shoulders of our new president. The belief that change is overdue is more than an ideological issue to many of you. I understand your concerns.
To our students and their families, I realize that you may be worried about how current economic conditions will affect your ability to pay for tuition and room and board. You may be worried about career prospects after graduation in a country where 11 million people are currently unemployed.
And to our faculty, staff, administrators and alumni, I know these issues are just as real to you. You, too, are concerned for our students’ welfare, the welfare of your friends and family and the welfare of this university.
I wish I could tell you that Bloomsburg University and our 13 sister institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have been untouched by current events. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Gov. Ed Rendell asked PASSHE to return $22 million of state funding to address an expected budget shortfall during the current fiscal year. The $22 million is equal to 4.25 percent of the nearly $520 million PASSHE expected to receive and, for BU, it equals $1.6 million from our budget allocation. I want to assure you that we are doing everything possible to minimize the impact of these budget cuts on our mission of teaching and learning.
PASSHE also directed that 128 management positions remain vacant during fiscal year 2008-09 and froze the salaries of non-union employees. At BU, six vacant positions will not be filled right now, including the dean of the College of Business, the Web and portal manager, director of library services and director of planning and assessment. The good news is that we do not anticipate any layoffs.
We will move forward with hiring a vice president for advancement, a critical, revenue-generating position in this time of economic uncertainty. Scholarships remain our top priority, and this new vice president will have the primary responsibility of bringing in the external funds necessary to grow scholarships and provide support for research, equipment and improved facilities. I encourage all of our students to learn more about available scholarships at the financial aid Web site, http://departments.bloomu.edu/finaid/ , and submit applications by the Feb. 6 deadline. And I remind our alumni and friends of the vital importance of scholarships and ask you to continue to support BU’s tradition of excellence.
We also are moving forward with renovations to Bakeless Center for the Humanities and Nelson Field House. Both projects were approved and funded by the Commonwealth before the recent turn of events. We are proceeding, as well, with the renovation of the original portion of Hartline Science Center, which is being funded with reserves saved over several years and maintenance funds we receive from the state. When completed, these renovation projects will enhance our students’ experiences at BU and, just as important in the near term, they will provide and preserve current jobs in related construction fields. I’m happy to report that the bid on the Nelson Field House renovation project came in more than 20 percent less than budgeted which, we hope, will free funds for other campus construction projects. It also is possible that the federal economic enhancement package will replace some or all of the funding for these capital projects.
We also may be able to renovate Sutliff Hall earlier than anticipated. If, as expected, Governor Rendell releases funds to encourage local economic development and create jobs, we will be able to improve facilities for students enrolled in the College of Business in the near future. We expect to hear soon whether we may move forward with this project.
Other upcoming construction projects will provide far-reaching financial savings. For example, facilities projects completed under the Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement are expected to save about $100,000 per year through increased energy efficiency. These projects include replacing two coal boilers in the steam plant with a biomass boiler and a natural gas boiler, upgrading the heating and air conditioning systems in Carver Hall and Scranton Commons and installing energy-efficient lighting across campus. We arrive at the expected savings of $100,000 by comparing the cost of energy-efficient renovations and the energy savings with the cost of making only routine repairs.
We continue to move forward to meet the campus’ technology needs, constantly providing the most current infrastructure, equipment and software possible. Ever-changing technology becomes more ingrained in our lives each day, not only on our campus but also in our society. We know we cannot cut back in this area that is so integral to learning and communication.
Over the past five years, PASSHE’s overall tuition and required fee increases have been the lowest among all public college and university systems in the United States, according to the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board. A report issued by the College Board indicates that the average total cost of attending a PASSHE university – including tuition, fees, room and board – is $539 below the national average and $2,459 below the average charged by other four-year public colleges and universities in the Middle Atlantic region. I am confident the PASSHE Board of Governors will be cognizant of existing financial constraints when tuition is set in July for 2009-2010.
While the issues facing us are complex, I know our campus community will continue to flourish. We will build on our strong reputation of excellence that, each year, draws more applicants from nearby communities, around the region and around the world. We will find creative solutions to today’s challenges. As President Obama said in his inauguration speech, “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.” We will certainly be successful in meeting the challenges we face at Bloomsburg University.
I thank you all for your commitment to Bloomsburg University. Your continuing dedication and support means so much to the university and to our students. I welcome your comments, suggestions and ideas as we move forward together. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View a video synopsis at http://www.youtube.com/user/BUTVCH8.
David L. Soltz