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Your Turn / Concordia - Ann Arbor and Wisconsin
February 14, 2024, 10:54:29 AM
Emailed to the faculty yesterday:

QuoteDear CUWAA faculty and staff,

Earlier today, in the monthly briefing, I gave a financial update, which, regrettably, was difficult news to share.

As you know, some of the most important goals of our new strategic plan involve looking realistically at the costs of operating our university campuses, demonstrating data-informed fiscal discipline and accountability, and pursuing a strategic model that will ensure our financial stability in the years ahead. As part of that process, we've been conducting a financial health check of our institution. Based on the analysis we just completed, it's clear that we must reduce our costs to operate sustainably within our existing revenues.

The situation is most acute at our Ann Arbor campus. This may be surprising to many of you since Ann Arbor has enjoyed impressive growth in enrollment over the past decade. This fall, we welcomed a record incoming class that helped take overall enrollment to more than 1350 students, the highest it has ever been.

Sadly, as many colleges and universities have discovered in these challenging times, growth alone is sometimes not enough. Although our tuition revenue has increased gradually at Ann Arbor, so too have our costs. The simple truth is this: the Ann Arbor campus faces a structural deficit large enough that it cannot be overcome without a significant change to the strategic model of how we operate.

The situation at our Wisconsin campus is slightly better but still needs attention and significant change. Here, too, we face an ongoing operational deficit created by an imbalance between the money we spend annually and the revenues we generate.

So, knowing these fiscal realities with the clarity we now possess, the question is, what do we do? First, as a relatively new president, I know that many of you are still getting to know me, and even more importantly, you are still deciding whether to place your trust in my leadership. Trust will be especially important as we navigate the financial challenges ahead, so I want to make these promises as we chart a path forward:

We will continue to live our mission with a Christ-centered focus and a deep sense of empathy for each member of our university community.

I and every member of our leadership team will speak truthfully throughout this process, and we will act with integrity, sharing our plans as they are finalized.

We will do what's necessary to ensure our financial position is strong, allowing us to pursue excellence across the university with our resources.

So, in that spirit of honesty and transparency, let me tell you everything I can at this time about the process we will follow in the months ahead.

We must move most quickly to address the ongoing operational deficit at the Ann Arbor campus. The campus must be reimagined, and we must significantly reduce operations by next fall to missional programs and those programs that we know can generate enough revenue to sustain its operations. It will likely involve both staff reductions and the disposition of property, facilities, and equipment.

We have a little more time to address the ongoing operational deficit at CUW. This will require a thorough analysis of our curricular and non-curricular programming to identify the efficiencies needed to rebalance our costs with our projected revenues. This, too, will involve staff reductions.

We wish this kind of dramatic action was not necessary. But to secure our future together as an institution, it is.

I do not have more specific information to share with you today. As I mentioned, we have only just completed our financial analysis and are still coming to terms with what it means. I briefed our Board of Regents late last week on these fiscal issues. They asked for a tentative plan to address our ongoing operational deficit by the end of this month. So, I can share more with you after we meet again with the board to provide those details, likely in early March.

Throughout the next few months, please know that I have identified a team who will seek your help and advice in making final decisions, and they will brief me with your insights, concerns, and ideas. Members of this team include:

Dr. Steve Taylor, Chief of Staff
Ms. Danielle Marsh, Interim CFO and VP of Finance
Ms. Kimberly Masenthin, AVP of Human Resources
Rev. David C. Fleming, Vice Chair, Board of Regents
Rev. Jonah P. Burakowski, Board of Regents
Mr. Timothy Sheldon, Foundation Board

I'll share more details as soon as I am able about how we can use this moment, as fraught as it is, to strengthen our communication and for you to build the kind of trust in me that I hope you will find I deserve.

I know this news is not easy to find out, and the kinds of changes we need to make will surely cause anxiety and hurt. I also don't wish to trivialize the hardships that may result from the reductions in faculty and staff we will need to make in the coming months.

However, as we embark on this process, I think it's important to remember why we decided during the past year of strategic planning to prioritize taking a more realistic, data-informed stance regarding our finances and to hold ourselves accountable for acting on what we learned. Too many colleges and universities are content to scrape by each year, moving from crisis to crisis, existing in unending austerity. That will not be our path. Instead, by creating a new, more sustainable business model for our university, we will, in fact, unleash our potential to realize the vision and goals of our strategic plan.

We will position ourselves to better live our mission for our students, the church, and the world.
We will forge the kind of financial stability we need to create truly transformational experiences for students.
We will ensure that our campus facilities are well maintained, beautiful, and modernized and that we have the resources we need to invest in our faculty and staff members and the amazing programs they build.
All these good things, our very ability to serve our Lord and the students we are blessed to receive, rests on our first having the strength to create an enduring and sustainable fiscal foundation. Together, this is a challenge I know we can meet.

Grace and Peace,

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