A budget letter to campus from President Cheng

Dear faculty and staff:

Today the Arizona Board of Regents met at Northern Arizona University for a thorough discussion of NAU’s planning, operations and financial efforts. Included in this conversation were the positive initiatives each of you is carrying out on behalf of NAU and for the success of our students. I thank you for your commitment to providing our students with a high quality university experience.

The budget recently passed by the Arizona Legislature was certainly a topic of conversation and we have only just begun to explore how we will face the financial challenges before us. As a result of the FY16 budget adopted by the state, NAU is in the position of having to reduce its expenditures for next year by more than $17 million. That is a steep hill to climb.

On campus and off, I’ve been speaking a lot about adaptability, and that attitude will certainly come into play now. No one can afford an inflexible approach to the budget. We are all committed to resolving this together.

There will be no shortage of campus engagement over the coming weeks as strategies, ideas and concerns will be sought and considered. You can contribute ideas, including those for revenue generation and efficiencies, by sending an email to budgetinfo@nau.edu. We have also set up a web page with FAQs and additional information.

Certain core principles will underpin all conversations about the budget: NAU will remain a student-centered university. Academic quality is paramount, which includes premier academic programs and access to support services for student success through graduation.

We will take a long-term approach with all decisions because the health of the university 10 years from now will be affected by how we implement reductions and allocate resources today.

In the short term, there is no avoiding the reality of a reduction of this magnitude. Quite simply, our university will feel the impact of these cuts. Each of us will feel it. There is no way to cushion everyone from this blow. That being the case, all aspects of our operation are up for consideration.

Difficult decisions have already begun to address the cuts. NAU has withdrawn its plans for a new building to house engineering capstone design projects, despite the rapid growth in that discipline and a glaring need for such space.

In addition, I have instructed the provost and vice presidents that all hiring must be carefully considered, and approval from my office will be required to proceed with any new positions. All travel will be reviewed for approval by vice presidents and the provost. As for our process going forward, our vice presidents, deans, chairs, and directors must be given an opportunity to consider the budget implications. We had been expecting cuts for several weeks, but the higher number significantly changes the scale of all that has been considered thus far.

While difficult, we cannot allow this new budget reality to define Northern Arizona University. We have risen to budget challenges in the past and I ask the campus community to approach this one as an opportunity for creativity and innovation. Over the long term, those are the traits that help the university achieve new levels of success. For now, we will all need to consider how to do our jobs under increasingly challenging circumstances.

I am confident NAU will emerge from this challenge with its mission and ideals intact. Thank you for all you do to contribute to our success.







Rita Hartung Cheng