The Second Fiscal Crisis
The current recession—the worst in 60 years—has blown open gaps in states’ budgets. States had to close a $102 billion budget shortfall in wrapping up their fiscal year 2009 balance sheets, which ended June 30 in all but four states. Cutting funding to higher education was a strategy used in 31 states to mend these shortfalls. Yet states face another $121 billion in deficits in fiscal year 2010, and already a few state budget directors have predicted $45 billion in awaiting deficits for the following year. Tax revenues from all sources—sales, personal and corporate income—are down, dramatically in many cases, in most states. So far in this recession, the number of jobs lost is more than twice that of the downturn in 1981 and 1982.
Even with a near-term, mild recovery, the fiscal outlook for states appears even more austere in the coming 12 to 18 months. While many economists foresee a rebound, unemployment rolls could swell through 2010, causing state revenues to lag, strained by Medicaid expenditures. Meanwhile, state revenues are not likely to increase. Some governors are boldly proposing tax increases to stem the fiscal bleeding, but in most cases, legislatures have not had the stomach to move on them for fear of facing a public backlash.
Making a Difference in the Students We Serve:An Interview with Muriel A. Howard)
Muriel A. Howard officially took the helm as AASCU’s new president on
August 1, 2009. Selected after a highly competitive national search,
she comes to this next stage in her career from a successful tenure as
president of Buffalo State College, State University of New York. Prior
to accepting that position in 1996, Howard spent nearly 15 years in
administration at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, capping her
experience there as vice president for public service and urban affairs.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at City University of New York’s
Richmond College, and both a Master of Education and a Ph.D. at the
University at Buffalo, SUNY. Howard is the first African-American—and
second woman—to lead one of the six presidentially based higher
education associations in Washington, D.C.
Howard joins AASCU during a time of unprecedented challenges and
opportunities. In June, she spoke about her background and her vision
for AASCU in an interview with Public Purpose.
As you leave Buffalo State, what accomplishments there make you most proud?
Overall, my experience at Buffalo State College was a wonderful and
rewarding opportunity for me professionally and personally. It was also
a great opportunity not only to engage with students, faculty and
staff, but also to learn from them.
I initially assumed my position as the interim president of the
college. To then be selected as the permanent president was a special
opportunity that allowed me to make a difference in the lives of others,
especially our students. It has been the most rewarding and
transforming experience of my career. I am very proud that I was able to
inspire and lead a change effort at Buffalo State that resulted in a
much more student-oriented and student-centered institution. I leave
Buffalo State knowing that it is a wonderful learning community that is
diverse, purposeful, engaged and vibrant.
In terms of specific accomplishments, I was able to work with the
faculty and staff to implement a new general education program entitled,
“Intellectual Foundations.” The college is investing over $350 million
in new capital construction projects, including the new $33 million
Burchfield Penney Art Center, which was recently completed. Construction
has begun on a new science and mathematics complex and a new
residential hall, and will start on a new technology building in the
spring. I was also pleased that I was able to increase the number of new
faculty, including the college’s first two endowed chairs. Last year,
for example, we were able to add about 50 new faculty positions. The
leadership programs and the equity and campus diversity initiatives that
have been implemented for our students and also for emerging leaders on
campus—both professional staff and faculty members—will bode Buffalo
State College well in the future. Most of all, I am proud of the
relationship I was able to develop with students.
H1N1: Ignore at Your Peril
As colleges and universities prepare for another academic year, the
prospect of an unprecedented—and potentially deadly—flu season looms
for presidents and senior campus leadership.
The H1N1 flu virus (commonly referred to as the Swine flu) was
declared a public health emergency in the United States on April 26,
2009 and a worldwide pandemic on June 11, 2009. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated more than 1,000,000 people in the
United States contracted H1N1 from April–June 2009. The CDC also
“anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and
more deaths associated with this pandemic in the United States over the
summer and into the fall and winter.”
College campuses are vulnerable by nature to pandemics. The
recently released National Campus Safety and Security Project survey
reported that 75.6 percent of respondents covered pandemics in emergency
preparedness plans. Part of emergency preparedness is risk management.
But what risk management principles apply to a pandemic on campus?
Risk Management and H1N1
University leaders should not underestimate the risks posed by
H1N1. In a text published by the National Association of College and
University Business Officers (NACUBO), the authors declared, “The
exposure to risk at colleges and universities is limitless.” Generally,
risks fall into five categories: operating risk, legal/regulatory risk,
financial risk, political and reputational risk, and technological risk.
Risk exposures vary by institution, but basic risk management involves
identifying risk(s), finding feasible options to mitigate/avoid risk(s),
implementing said options, and monitoring them over time.
Risks associated with H1N1 might present themselves as follows:
- Operating risk: offices with intensive student contact
(e.g., residence life, campus security, health services, facilities, and
custodial services) could find themselves drastically understaffed
during a widespread outbreak, affecting both ill and healthy students
- Operating risk: key employees (faculty, administration,
staff, vendors) or students may be incapacitated or die; classes could
be cancelled due to ill faculty
- Operating risk: health services might be overwhelmed with sick and “worried well” patients
- Financial risk: cash flow might be interrupted due to
widespread absenteeism of personnel administering internal and external
sources of revenue
- Legal risk: if institutions are asked to administer H1N1 vaccines, there might be legal risk if adverse reactions occur
- Technological risk: if many classes are moved online to limit face-to-face contact, institutions’ IT systems might falter under the strain
- Political and reputational risk: affected institutions
might suffer reputational or political risk if their response is
considered insufficient or incompetent by the public and/or lawmakers