Academic Reinvention Initiative

I write to share the results of plans set forth during the Academic Reinvention initiative of the Magis Operational Excellence Program (MOE).  This message follows my April 27 message (https://www.slu.edu/the-office-of-the-provost/communications-from-the-provost) in which I described some specific actions and important themes.  Our goal was to maintain or improve academic excellence to create a distinctive SLU academic experience, delivered in a financially sustainable way.  We have started this journey with some important decisions and plans.

To date, academic units have committed to actions that will realize $13.3 million in value (the combination of cost reductions and new revenue) by FY 2020 -- and that’s approximately 95% of the target we were charged to achieve as part of the Academic Reinvention initiative.  Furthermore, academic units contributed significant additional savings to MOE in the organizational redesign initiative that led to the staff and administrative reductions announced by President Pestello in March.

Our progress to date is the result of several interrelated actions:

  1. We streamlined curricula and reduced faculty costs in programs with significant capacity; in doing so, we have ensured stronger, more stable enrollments in courses, and significantly reduced the number of courses with very small enrollments. From a financial standpoint, this was by far the most powerful driver of cost savings.  Nearly 80% of the roughly $10.6 million in cost-savings we will achieve by FY2020 is directly related to this effort.  About $1.5 million will come via personnel cost savings associated with the non-tenured faculty who received notices last week that their contracts will not be renewed, faculty resignations, phased retirements, contract term changes, elimination of graduate assistantships, and anticipated faculty attrition in the academic units.  We have accomplished all cost-savings under MOE without terminating any tenured faculty, and all notifications of contract non-renewal for non-tenure track faculty have been conducted in full compliance with the Faculty Manual.  The loss of faculty through non-renewal is very difficult for our academic community; we remain grateful for the hard work of all faculty, but especially the few whose positions have been eliminated and will be moving on to employment elsewhere in a year from now, or possibly sooner in some cases.
  2. We solicited proposals from the faculty and deans for new, sustainable revenue resulting from new programs or the expansion of existing programs. Examples include summer online courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and expansion of the Physician Assistant program in Doisy College of Health Sciences.  Financially, new revenue from these proposals accounts for about 20% of that of the total value of $13.3 million.
  3. In some areas, organizational re-alignments of academic programs or departments are being implemented. For example, the Center for Health Care Ethics is moving into the College of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1st.  There are others, which I highlighted in my April 27 message, and additional re-organizations are under consideration.  For example, the Aviation program, in Parks College, is developing a business plan to operate as a financially self-sustaining unit.
  4. Cost-savings related to program disestablishments account for less than 5% of the $10.6 million in projected savings identified to date.  But program disestablishment allows us to continue our efforts to streamline our academic portfolio and focus on excellence throughout.  The Faculty Senate played an instrumental role in designing the process by which programs were disestablished.  The process, shared openly with the faculty, was consistent with the Faculty Manual and reflected my commitment to shared governance.  The list of all programs affirmed by the Board of Trustees for disestablishment can be found at: https://www.slu.edu/operational-excellence/docs/academic-reinvention-tracking-document-may-2017.pdf.  While program disestablishments are a reflection of strategic priorities, we must remain fully committed to seeing that all students enrolled in our programs are cared for through the completion of their degrees.  The deans and faculty will connect with students to assure them that teach-out plans of program disestablishments will meet their needs without compromising rigor or academic quality.  There are 47 undergraduate and 28 graduate students currently enrolled in programs to be closed over the next few years.

It is important to understand these transformational decisions in the context of one of our top priorities for the University:  investing in and supporting faculty and staff.  Even though we have not yet achieved a surplus via our MOE efforts, Dr. Pestello and the Board are evidencing their good faith commitment to investing in our people by using annual savings from MOE for compensation increases for faculty and staff in the upcoming fiscal year.  Dr. Pestello recently announced the Board’s approval of a budget for FY2018 that includes just over $450,000 for faculty rank and tenure promotions, as well as an additional 2% increase in the total pool of compensation available for faculty and staff.   

For FY2018, the 2% compensation pool is comprised of the following:

  1. 1% merit pool for faculty and staff to be distributed based upon performance, and
  2. An additional 1% for:
  • Faculty and staff who are most contributing to advancing priorities in our strategic plan.
  • Faculty most at variance to market or peers (as identified by the Gender Equity Task Force and other compensation data).

The deans and I have agreed to allocate these pools of money for faculty according to the following guidelines: 

  1. Raise base salaries of meritorious faculty with a fixed dollar amount (rather than a percent increase).
  2. Raise base salaries of faculty with the largest gap between their current actual salaries and their predicted salaries as identified in the Gender Equity Task Force Report and other compensation data.
  3. Cover all increases for rank and/or tenure per the same standards used in prior years (5-10% increases in base salary depending on the type of promotion).

Staff performance increases will be determined based upon evaluation of individual performance by each dean or unit vice president.   Additionally, none of the above applies to the School of Medicine or SLUCare, both of which will be addressed separately by Vice President and Dean Kevin Behrns.

We may be at the conclusion of the academic year with important decisions made that will contribute significantly in reducing the operating deficit and restoring a surplus that will enable investment in the academic enterprise. However, any initiative worthy of the name “academic reinvention” will necessarily require a multiyear effort that creates the structures and support needed to attract the students, faculty, and staff who want to be part of a SLU engaged in some of the most significant challenges in St. Louis and the world.  In Fall 2017 we’ll hold more face-to-face meetings to discuss our planning and ongoing reinvention efforts.  Until then, I thank everyone for their commitment to the stewardship of the University.

Respectfully,

 Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.
Provost