Boston University Spring Update
May 6, 2011
We are headed down the home stretch toward Boston University's commencement ceremonies May 20-22 and what I hope will be a glorious celebration of the accomplishments of our students and the University. I am writing to update you on some issues before many of our faculty and staff members begin to direct their attention to summer activities.
This has been a year of important transitions. Jean Morrison joined us as University Provost and Chief Academic Officer in January and is off to a terrific start. Foremost, she is working with the deans to streamline processes for the administration of academic functions and to focus on increasing the quality and impact of our programs. One of the most important next steps toward this goal is the development and implementation of a new process of Academic Program Review which was discussed at our March Faculty Assembly Meeting. The review process will include a self-assessment conducted by an academic unit, an external expert assessment of the unit, and the identification of priorities and goals for the unit. The plan is to implement the first such reviews in fall 2011 and to cycle through every department within the University over a period of roughly 6-8 years.
In my letter to the faculty and staff of April 15th, I described the reorganization of the University's leadership that goes into effect on July 1st with the retirement of Joe Mercurio, our Executive Vice President. The decision is not to replace Joe with an Executive Vice President, but instead to create a senior leadership team, guided by the University Provost and me. This reorganization is also described in an April 15th BU Today article. I believe we will begin next year with a very strong academic and administrative leadership team that will work with me to continue to guide the University forward.
Budget and Finances
The Trustees of the University have approved our Fiscal Year 2012 budget of $2.13 billion, beginning July 1, 2011. The budget is based on a 3.85 percent increase in tuition, room and board for our students, and includes a 7.7 percent increase in undergraduate financial aid, for an estimated freshman class of 4,000; our undergraduate aid budget will total more than $210 million next year.
The budget includes funding for merit increases for faculty and staff and for inflationary increases for key services and operations. Again, the largest proportional increase in the budget is the cost of the employee benefit for healthcare, which rose by 13.2 percent. You can put the increasing cost of healthcare in context for the University by noting that in Fiscal Year 2000, benefits for all our employees consumed 8.1 percent of our total budget, compared to 10.4 percent in Fiscal Year 2011, so that today almost 25 percent of our compensation comes in the form of employee benefits. Thus, employee benefits are consuming an ever-increasing portion of the funds available for increased compensation.
The budget also includes $4 million of new recurring funds for academic initiatives as allocated by the University Provost through the budgeting process with our deans of the schools and colleges on the Charles River Campus. At this time, there are currently 90 open faculty searches underway on the CRC, of which 26 are for new faculty positions in line with the goals of our Strategic Plan.
Funding also is included in this budget for the new Childbirth and Primary Care Giver Workload Reduction Policy that was approved by the University Council and me this spring. The policy gives release time from teaching and service for professorial faculty, lecturers, and instructors who are the primary care giver of a new child through birth, adoption, foster care or guardianship placement, or newly established legal custodial care. The details of the policy are available in the Faculty Handbook.
The Fiscal Year 2012 budget represents an increase of only 1.2 percent above our final FY2011 budget. The small increase is due primarily to two effects. First, the amount of externally sponsored research for the University is expected to drop next year as the funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) ends. Second, the projected size of next fall's freshman class at 4,000 is significantly below the 4,409 new students who joined us last September. (We have set a smaller target class size deliberately in order to reduce the pressures placed on our resources from last year's larger-than-expected entering class.)
Our admitted freshmen were selected from a pool of almost 42,000 applicants, the largest and academically strongest group in the University's history. Those offered admission in our four-year schools and colleges have an average high school GPA of 3.68 in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and a three-test SAT score of 2018. These students are in the top 8 percent of their high school class. Admission to the College of General Studies also continues to become increasingly competitive, with the average GPA at 3.37 and the three-test SAT rising to 1801.
The increasing quality of our admitted students also makes the competition for undergraduate financial aid more intense than at any time in our history. For example, the average accepted student to our Trustee Scholars Program (the University's highest merit-based financial aid award) has a GPA of 3.96, a three-test SAT score of 2292, and ranks in the top 2 percent of his or her high school class. Also, in only the second year of operation, the University Honors College is already attracting outstanding students as well: the profile of the average admitted student shows a GPA of 3.88 and a three-test SAT score of 2184.
Construction cranes are again visible on both our Charles River and Medical campuses, as construction is underway on the Medical Student Residence at 815 Albany Street and the Center for Student Services on the corner of Bay State Road and Deerfield Street. Both projects are on schedule for completion in the summer of 2012.
The next major construction and renovation project that is being planned is the expansion and renovation of the School of Law, which will include the construction of a teaching center at the base of the Law Tower, followed by the complete renovation of the tower. This capital project was approved to move forward by our Board of Trustees at their meeting last December and the processes of securing the appropriate permits and completing the design are underway with the goal of starting the multi-year project in summer 2012.
In addition to these three major capital projects, we are continuing our plan of renovating teaching, research, and residential facilities across our campus. Major projects scheduled for completion in summer 2011 include the renovation of Sleeper Hall on West Campus, renovation of the auditorium and classrooms of the first floor of the Metcalf Science Center, and renovation and expansion of the organic chemistry teaching laboratories, also in the Metcalf Science Center. Among many other projects scheduled for the summer, 39 classrooms are scheduled for modernization on the Charles River Campus.
We continue to make progress on the sustainability of our campuses. The most noticeable continuing project is the replacement of the windows in the School of Theology, Metropolitan College, and the College of Arts and Sciences. However, the highest impact on our energy usage has come from our ongoing effort to convert our energy systems from oil to natural gas, which has resulted in substantial budgetary savings and a reduction of 3,800 metric tonnes annually of CO2 emissions in our central heating plant alone. The next phase of conversion projects, which will be completed by September, will save an additional 1,000 metric tonnes annually. Our sustainability efforts earned the University a place in Princeton Review's 2011 Guide to 311 Green Colleges, which was released last month.
In all, we expect to spend over $125 million on new construction, renovation, and sustainability projects in the coming fiscal year.
The first stage of our BUworks Program - the new software system for financial operations, purchasing, and human resources - is headed into the home stretch for implementation on July 1, 2011. The level of effort that has gone into this project is without precedent: Thus far, the project has involved more than 100 full-time staff (63 from BU and 44 contractors) and will have used more than 155,000 hours of labor by the time the first phase goes live. The final push to get us to July 1 will be both demanding and rewarding.
On July 1, the antiquated systems we use today will be officially transitioned into one state-of-the-art, efficient, integrated system. Our core financial processes, including general ledger, budgeting, accounts payable, and accounts receivable, will utilize a new chart of accounts which will provide administrators and faculty with more robust reporting and forecasting capabilities. Our grants management system will be enhanced as we build a platform for more effective research administration. And, most importantly, the way we manage our people will change significantly. Our primary human resources processes - personnel administration, benefits administration, organizational management, and payroll - will, at last, be able to share employee data electronically, eliminating many of the paper-based processes we currently use. We will access this new technology using a new web-based workspace named the BUworks Central Portal.
Additional capabilities will be available in January and July 2012 as the BUworks implementation project is finished; the full scope of the implementation can be found on the BUworks website.
I cannot over-emphasize both the importance of this program and the scale of change that will occur operationally throughout the University as all our administrative offices and staff learn to do our work in the new system. More than 450 users have begun training on the new BUworks system, and many more were introduced to it at the April 7th all-University Management Conference. All of these staff members are learning the new software system and new processes while still keeping the University running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. I want to especially thank all of those involved for supplying the leadership and effort needed to bring this project to a successful launch.
Finally, I would like to give you an update on the international activities of the University and discussions that could lead to considerable expansion of Boston University's global profile. Boston University has long been a leader in international education, by attracting international students to our campus, through research and service around the world, and through educational programs offered abroad. There has been much discussion and effort aimed at increasing our footprint globally, including faculty committees that have proposed specific focuses, the establishment of the Office of Global Operations to help coordinate our programs abroad, and a study of establishing programs in India as a major expansion of our global footprint.
Instead of going into detail in this letter about my thoughts on the importance of this effort, I have put together a short paper entitled Boston University and Global Higher Education that is available on my website. Copies of this paper will also be sent to the faculty later this month. The goal of this paper is twofold: to make the case for what it will mean to be a global university in the decades ahead and to describe the steps that Boston University needs to undertake to be a global leader in higher education. I look forward to continuing these discussions with the faculty and staff going forward.
With the establishment in early 2010 of the Office of Global Operations, under Vice President Willis Wang, we have begun to focus on the support and organization of all our international programs. The Global Operations website describes how this office can help our schools, colleges, programs, and faculty in developing international programs and collaborations, and the issues that need to be addressed with particular types of programs and collaborations.
Finally, I hope you will join me, our Commencement Speaker Katie Couric, and other honorary degree recipients (see our Commencement website), on Nickerson Field on Sunday May 22nd to honor our graduates and celebrate the University's accomplishments.
I also wish you all the best for a productive summer.
Robert A. Brown