When the St. Thomas Board of Trustees approved the university’s 2009-10 budget last February, one of the most sobering pieces of news that we shared was that we didn’t know if we would be able to deliver a pay increase this fall.
The recession and stock market crisis have had a significant impact on our budget, and we have been able to draw less income from endowment and invested assets, which lost 24 percent in value in the year that ended June 30. All we could say in February was that we hoped to come through with a pay increase that at the least would cover any projected increases in health care expenses in 2010, but we wouldn’t be able to make any decisions until we saw if fall enrollment met projections.
The good news that we can share today is that we will have pay increases this fiscal year, thanks to stable enrollment. The increases will be modest, to be sure, and we won’t have details for several weeks. But be assured that the entire amount that we budgeted for this contingency will be distributed in the form of pay increases and associated fringe benefits. At a time when many colleges and universities have frozen or cut wages or imposed unpaid furloughs, we are pleased that we will be able to deliver an increase.
As you may have read Thursday in Bulletin Today, enrollment this year is only slightly lower than last fall. Our overall enrollment of 10,851 students dropped 112, and credit hours are down just 104 – or less than one-tenth of 1 percent – from last year’s record of 122,916. We have the largest freshman class – 1,352 – in our history. And the percentages of students of color are at what we believe to be record highs – 14.5 percent undergraduate and 13.2 percent graduate.
Given the general challenges presented by the economy, those kinds of enrollment numbers are very encouraging and, frankly, are better than what we expected when we set our 2009-2010 budget more than seven months ago. We want to thank everyone at St. Thomas who played a role in enrolling students, especially our undergraduate Enrollment Services division and our graduate and professional colleges and schools.
The 2010-11 fiscal year promises to be challenging. Trustees have strongly encouraged us to keep next year’s tuition increases to a minimum – certainly lower than this year’s 5.9 percent increase – and to control our portion of the rising costs of higher education. We soon will begin work on the FY11 budget with our Budget Advisory Committee and will look to all of you for suggestions on how to achieve our objectives.
We promise we will get news to you as soon as possible on pay increases for this year after consulting with the President’s Staff and the Academic and Administrative Leadership Group on the matter.