Planning Doane's financial future

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As the landscape of higher education continues to constantly evolve, universities across the country are faced with making some difficult decisions. Increased competition, shifting demographics of high school graduates, and the inability to significantly increase net tuition has been cause for a disruption in higher education across the globe. Whether an institution is private or public, universities have been forced to take a detailed look at their operating expenses, and in many cases, identify areas where budget cuts can be made.

Doane is no different in that regard, and as the university continues to strengthen its financial position, Jacque Carter, president of Doane University, has identified a primary objective moving forward, to reduce a $2 million gap in the operating budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“Two million is the current gap from projected revenues compared to projected expenses,” Julie Schmidt, vice president of finance and administration, explains. “While $2 million may seem like a big number, it’s 5 percent of our total operating budget. By tightening our belts, we’re going to remove unnecessary expenses and provide resources to continue our financial strength.”

To address this objective, President Carter has created two committees to spearhead this project, an Academic Planning Review Committee and an Administrative Efficiency Review Committee.

The Academic Planning Review Committee will be led by Dr. Paul Savory, vice president for academic affairs, and comprised of members of the Academic Planning and Effectiveness Committee (APEC). APEC considers and makes recommendations on academic program evaluation, development, and improvement to achieve Doane’s mission-driven learning outcomes. This committee will consist of faculty from each college, the academic deans, and additional staff.

The second committee, the Administration Efficiency Review Committee, will be led by Julie Schmidt. This group will be comprised of all the vice presidents on the Crete campus with expected close collaboration with their budget managers and associated staff. This committee will provide recommendations to the president after reviewing prioritization and efficiencies related to recurring administrative costs, alignment of administrative resources with growth opportunities, and comparisons with other schools on budget and staffing for functional areas.

As Dr. Savory and Schmidt work with their committees in the coming months, they will prepare recommendations to the president, which they will present to him in mid-April. President Carter will then review the recommendations with the Board of Trustees in early May, and an open forum discussion involving the community will be held sometime in May before final decisions are made by June 1.

By involving a number of people in this process, Doane is ensuring decisions will be made in the best interest of the university as a whole. “At the end of this process, it will give us a clear sense of what the community believes our priority areas are for investment,” Carter says. “My belief is that this process will not only help us balance our budget and reduce expenses, but I think it will also shine a bright light on our areas of opportunity going forward, where we can grow. There’s some real good that can come out of that.”

“By involving the community, it engages people that are close to the situation, allowing them to provide valuable input,” Schmidt adds.

As Marty Fye, vice president for institutional advancement explains, this is a complete team and community effort to position Doane in the best place possible for the future.

“Everyone on campus has the ability to help in a positive way to ensure that we balance our budget on an annual basis and that we are one of the top schools in Nebraska,” Fye proclaims. “I have 100% confidence in the people that are currently in leadership roles, whether it’s the faculty leadership or the administrative leadership. Our eyes are on the future.”

As far as how this might affect the current students at Doane, Savory believes it will have little to no effect at all. “My hope is that this will have little to no impact on the current students. If anything, we want to identify things that aren’t really helping them at the moment.”

“If we did not have a budget deficit and had twice the amount of money we currently have in our endowment, I would still undertake this effort to look at what we’re doing with our resources,” Carter says.

Further details regarding an open forum discussion will be provided in the future.