Weekly Repopulation Update

Sent: April 2, 2024

From: Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

As you are all very aware by now, SJSU finds itself in an interesting position. Our CA student enrollments remain strong relative to other CSUs in the northern region of California. However, our international enrollments have declined and our overall enrollment number remains below where we were pre-pandemic. To put a finer point on the enrollment issue, we are still down nearly 1500 FTES since our historic enrollment high in 2021. Much of this enrollment decline has been in international and other non-resident students, leading to a serious decline in our overall revenue as a campus. 

At the same time, the budget tied to the campus’ strategic plan suggested investments across several areas, many of which were made over the last five years. The investment included a serious ramp-up of RSCA funding in our division (budgeted at over $8M this year), for example, as well as continued tenure track and staff hiring, which has included start-up resources totaling nearly $2M in one-time dollars per year. Within the Division of Academic Affairs, we have had to navigate this financial reality by committing over $10.4M in reductions this year and next to address the structural budget problem of the campus (this represented about 35% of the total across the campus in this “first wave” of reductions, as strategic plan investments were heavier outside the division than within it). We have accomplished some of these reductions in general fund spending through resource reallocation (e.g., paying for more with funds from outside the general fund). This year, for example, the provost office covered nearly 50% of the division’s $7M reduction, passing on $3.5M in reductions to divisional units where the colleges did a lot of work to close this gap. We are now working on strategies to absorb the remaining $3.4M cut owed from this year’s reduction centrally (originally planned next year as part of a two-year plan), allowing the colleges and other academic affairs units to keep moving forward with their work. 

Yet, despite our best efforts and the most recent reduction of $10.4M, the campus does not have any further general fund reserves to backfill any new deficits. This has led to an additional 6% budget deallocation across the campus during the next fiscal year. This reduction will be required across all divisions on the campus. In our division, the colleges and central divisional units are already planning on how to adjust course schedules and staff hiring to manage this budget change. When this process is complete, the general fund budget of Academic Affairs will have been reduced by a total of 10.4%. In comparison, the budgets of the other divisions will have been reduced by anywhere between 13-20% over the same period. For example, Athletics will have taken a nearly 16% reduction, while Advancement will have taken over a 20% reduction, and Research and Innovation will have reduced their budget by almost 17.5%. None of this is easy but all of it is necessary, unfortunately.

Some optimism must be noted, however, even while these reductions are real and painful. SJSU has taken the lead in the CSU when it comes to delivering new degree options through our self-support, or PaCE, operations. In Fall 2023, our PaCE enrollment increased by 18%. These are not students who are thought of as “traditional” and they did not see a campus-based program as an option. Many of these enrollments are also in professionally-focused graduate programs, although we have seen obvious gains in our undergraduate degree completion programs through SJSU Online. Indeed, our work in PaCE has meant that our marketing campaign for those programs is also attracting students from within the Santa Clara region and beyond to both our campus-based and PaCE programs. SJSU now has the largest market for undergraduate and graduate students in the State of Washington in the CSU, and I accompanied our Student Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR) team to our first-ever yield event in Seattle last week. It was a smaller event, but we had alumni there from the region and they were very excited to tell the story of SJSU. One parent said to me after the event, “This experience is probably going to make the difference.” We also had over 500 people—students and parents—attend our yield event in Long Beach, California, just a week ago, and our Oakland yield event was one of the largest we have seen. Students there were very excited about what SJSU has to offer and I believe we can employ even more strategies to further attract students from across the west to SJSU.

SJSU is also attracting more attention from regional partners and this is bringing philanthropic and research dollars to the campus. This pool has included $3M from Adobe in the past three years and substantial collaborative grants to build K-16 pipelines, for example. The Adobe funds have allowed both faculty and staff to participate in several professional development opportunities on the campus. The work of our Advancement team, led by Judy Nagai, is recovering from the pandemic slump, and our numbers are looking strong as we move forward with our campaign. There is also a lot of interest from companies who want deeper partnerships with SJSU, providing our students pipelines into internships and direct investments, as well. The partnership with the Division of Research and Innovation has yielded more grant submissions each year and our overall research expenditures have grown as a campus. SJSU is no longer the “best kept secret” in California, and students and families now see SJSU as a top choice for advancing their future thanks to all this effort. 

I imagine as you have read all of this, you are saying to yourself, “Well, that’s all great, Vin, but we are still taking serious cuts in our programs this year.” And, to be direct, you are 100% right to say that very thing. But we are at an inflection point, and if we don’t tackle the structural budget challenge now, we are going to find it hanging over our heads for an even longer period. Put another way, our budget challenges will continue to linger and drain the morale of our community if we don’t address them now. With what we are doing, therefore, we can get our campus to a balanced budget next year and new growth can be applied, once again, to key initiatives within the Division of Academic Affairs. This means, for example, that we should be able to authorize more tenure-track searches for the 25-26 cycle and find ways to extend and support staff positions that help students find a greater level of success at the institution. In the case of the staff in the division, we should also be able to provide multiple pathways to professional development and growth to staff who are deeply committed to our campus. I hope that as we come out of this — and we will come out of this — that we will find ourselves in a stronger and more confident financial position. 

I have learned a lot over my five years here at SJSU. I know the term resilient is often overused, but I do believe in this campus and this community. We have been through a lot — pandemics, leadership transitions, and financial exigencies — but we have continued to thrive despite all this. I know this is draining on everyone. And, for that, I sincerely apologize. This is not the financial place I had hoped we would be in coming toward my sixth year on campus. But, it is what it is, and we will handle it and move forward together. 

As usual, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.