May 19, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As the University continues to navigate an environment filled
with unknowns due to the impact of COVID‑19, it is critical
that we develop a thoughtful approach to making decisions that
will affect the community’s shared future. One of the most
critical areas of our decision-making, not surprisingly, will
revolve around university finances and budgets.
The economic fallout from the pandemic is—and will
be—significant. While the state of Washington is still
gathering economic data and analyzing it, we expect that public
universities in the state, like other public agencies, will be
asked to shoulder a share of the budget trimming that is to come.
As we begin carrying out various budget-cutting scenarios at
WSU as part of our planning process, I am proposing that a set
of core principles guide our decision-making. These principles
are intended to enable us as an institution to stay focused on
fulfilling our mission going forward. That is, we will prioritize
funding to support the academic opportunities that are vital to
the success of our students and other activities that support
the citizens of our state and the economy.
Core Principles for Fiscal Decision‑making
We will prioritize core and mission critical
activities to support high quality academic delivery and student
We will continue to prioritize student support services that
are essential to helping students achieve their educational and
career goals. Significant cuts in these areas would
disproportionally affect our access and opportunity mission
for all students and especially for our vulnerable students:
first‑generation college students, rural students,
low‑income students, students of color, students with
disabilities, and other vulnerable student populations.
Critical services, like academic advising and transition
support, are essential to helping students successfully
We will work to sustain as many WSU jobs as possible.
We will consider a variety of options, including system‑wide
salary reductions based on salary levels, with a goal of minimizing
the impact on our lower-earning faculty and staff. We may also
consider retirement incentives, changes to annual contracts (e.g.,
12‑month to 9‑month contracts), alternative work schedules,
and work shifts to prevent job loss. The goal will be to mitigate
the impact on contingent faculty members as well as front‑line
and mid‑level staff.
We will maintain a focus on revenue generation,
including accelerating revenue enhancement opportunities, in
fiscally responsible ways.
We will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship by assuring
direct benefits to units willing to engage in responsible
risk taking. Service centers and auxiliaries will need to adjust
their expenditures and revise their revenue forecasts as well as
identify new opportunities to meet or increase expected revenues.
We will minimize budget reductions for units with a high degree of
instructional load and other student-facing units. Larger cuts
will come from administrative and support units.
Faculty and staff will need to spend more time on student
recruitment and retention than we are used to doing. One of the
most effective things we can do over the next couple of months is
ensure we reach enrollment targets at all of our campus locations.
We also will look for ways to expand professional master’s
programs and 4+1 programs in ways that position our students to be
successful in the job market and also generate revenue for our campuses.
We will align the budget to achieve financial
sustainability across all WSU campuses and locations.
We are experiencing a historic economic and budgetary situation
that could not have been anticipated or planned for. We are all in
this together, and we will align our resources to meet our highest
priorities and achieve our goals.
We will act on behalf of the entire University, as all operating
budgets and reserves belong to WSU, not to any single campus or
department. While the University has always enabled leaders to
manage their own budgets and reserves—and we intend to continue
that practice—no entity will be exempted from participating
in the budget exercises necessary to meet the governor’s budget
directives and to achieve financial health.
The response to COVID‑19 will require that we develop a
future budget model that achieves our strategic goals and
reconsiders our previous funding and financial strategies to ensure
fiscal health. It will require that we commit to leveraging our
administrative structures and optimizing the talents and capacities
at all of our campuses and locations to maximize the utilization of
our human and financial resources and to promote efficient and
In closing, know that you and your efforts are deeply
appreciated. This entire financial exercise and cutting budgets
is a painful process. I felt we had finally turned the corner in
stabilizing the University’s budget and that we were ready
to focus on building new programs. But COVID‑19 upended
plans large and small.
As I said at the beginning of the pandemic, we will work
together as a community to identify decisions that will best
enable us to serve the people of the state and beyond. As our
financial situation becomes clearer, we will communicate regularly
and transparently. I am confident that we will persevere—and
succeed—and I, like you, look forward to the day when we can
operate in an environment free of COVID‑19.
Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University