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November 2021 Budget Forum FAQs




How were the budget committee members selected?

The University Budget Committee traditionally includes two co-chairs (the provost and CFO), vice presidents, deans, faculty and staff members, and student leaders from campus organizations (undergraduate, graduate, and law). The UBC also receives support from several key resource persons who specialize in budget/finance and institutional research. The committee has representation from across AU and members were identified in consultation with each stakeholder group (e.g., Faculty Senate, Staff Council, AUSG, etc.).

What budgetary/financial data is available and where can it be found?

The website for the Office of Finance and Treasurer contains a wealth of information, including budget reports, annual reports, bond ratings, past budgets, financial statements, and more.

Why isn't budget information broken out by school/office? It would be useful to see how much funding goes to specific programs, centers, and institutes.

There is some budget information broken out by school in the reports published on the website for the Office of Finance and Treasurer, but most individual offices within larger units are not listed currently. That said, AU is relatively transparent in comparison with other colleges and universities. It is also important to note that funding allocated to individual programs, centers, and institutes may come from sources like philanthropic gifts, foundations, federal agencies, etc. The funds are in some cases not fungible (i.e., AU would not be able to move the money to support other initiatives). For this reason, the overall funding level for a center, for example, is not necessarily a function of how much AU values that center; it may depend more on the funding sources for the center.

Is AU counting on budget mitigation restrictions currently in place (e.g., hiring freeze, eliminating use of funds for meals) to continue in this new two-year budget?

We took a financial hit last year in terms of lost revenue and continue to incur COVID-related expenses as a university. Although we are continuing with a 5% cut in non-personnel expenses this year and will need to continue to be responsible in our spending, we are not planning additional furloughs and have restored both retirement contributions and a merit pool for staff and faculty in the current budget. We have also transitioned our hiring freeze to a hiring cool and are recruiting in a number of areas. While we are still asking members of the community to curtail meal expenditures, we approved some level of financial support for things like holiday gatherings at the end of the fall semester. You should check in with your vice president to gain approval for spending on meals.

How will the budget reflect the commitment AU has made to DEI via the Inclusive Excellence Plan?

The budget will definitely take into account not only the Changemakers Strategic Plan but AU’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence, which has recently entered its second phase (with updated goals, action steps, and data that will inform our work). To give a few examples, we are continuing to financially support the Antiracist Research and Policy Center (ARPC), which welcomed its new executive director in summer 2021; investing in diversifying our faculty and staff; and advancing new initiatives like Black affinity housing and Black affinity sections for AUx2.

How will the budget support the arts?

The arts remain an incredibly important part of AU’s work and place in Washington, DC—including student performances, exhibitions mounted in the AU Museum, arts education, and more. We are proud of what we have been able to do to maintain a vibrant arts presence even throughout the pandemic. The budgeting process is still in its early stages, so we can’t speak to specific funding levels quite yet. The next step will be the call that goes out to all of the deans, and much of our funding for the arts will come through the budgets for the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication. As always, we will be facing a number of trade-offs, but AU remains committed to providing students and other community members with a rich artistic experience.

How will the (re)starting of research be supported in the recovery from the pandemic? 

AU is fortunate to have made great strides during the pandemic. Diana Burley joined us as the new Vice Provost for Research. She and her team in the Office of Research—along with our research administrators and faculty throughout the schools and colleges—have continued to build our research infrastructure, grow sponsored research, and evolve AU’s research culture. For example, we launched Research Central to enhance customer service; hosted an outstanding event honoring AU alumna Doreen Bogdan Martin with the inaugural Outstanding Tech Policy Changemaker Award; and received our largest externally funded research grant--$15 million from the NSF to lead a project focused on the challenge of food waste. Given the focus on research in our strategic plan, we will continue to invest in this area during the next budget cycle. Of course, we recognize the difficulties faced by researchers who have caregiving responsibilities and those affected by limitations on travel or fieldwork. We continue to monitor these concerns and to do what we can to address them.

Does the university plan to invest in staff to support development and alumni relations to increase giving?

Achieving our comprehensive campaign goals is absolutely a focus of our budgeting process. Succeeding in fundraising helps to support all areas of our strategic plan. The VP for Development and Alumni Relations will be submitting a budget request during the next step of the process.  

What is the university and school planning to do with the unoccupied buildings on campus?

Our 2021 Campus Plan, which should be finalized soon, summarizes development that is anticipated in the coming years. We have also recently established a new committee that will be taking a look at space management on campus. Particularly as we transition to a hybrid work environment, this committee’s work will inform decisions about renovations, relocations, consolidations, etc. While we do have some buildings that are effectively empty, we will need to put quite a lot of money into these spaces to fully leverage them (e.g., enhancing technology, increasing accessibility, changing layouts).

Does the university plan on diversifying its sources of revenue given the expectation of increased uncertainty from its main source of revenue (student tuition)? Will there be an increased investment in non-traditional students moving forward?

Revenue diversification is definitely a focus for AU moving forward, although it will undoubtedly take time to make any major changes given the current reliance on income from student-driven sources. For example, we are focusing now on a comprehensive campaign. We are also expanding our offerings beyond the traditional undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The Office of Graduate and Professional Studies is leading our efforts to create new lifelong learning opportunities across AU’s schools and colleges (including upskilling, executive education, and other programs that will draw interest from new student populations).

Will the budget contain funding for a new ERP and university-wide CRM?

Yes, we are about to make an investment into a new fully integrated ERP system that will streamline our processes and help enhance data access across the university. The ERP will likely be rolled out in two stages with the first focusing on finance/HR and the second on student affairs. We will turn our attention to CRM changes after the ERP rollout. Within Strategic Imperative 9 (How AU Works), we are continuing to look at the ways in which our processes impede our progress—including in the area of technology.


Will AU use its financial resources, including endowment earnings, to retain employees by increasing compensation?

Yes, faculty and staff retention will continue to be a top priority for AU as we move into the next budget cycle. Of course, compensation—including not only salaries but health/dental/life insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits—is a key factor in employees’ decision making. Only around 2% of our current revenue comes from endowment earnings, while the vast majority comes from student-driven sources (tuition, fees, housing, dining, etc.). Therefore, even if we were to increase our endowment and be able to draw down more, it wouldn’t move the needle substantially in terms of the overall budget. It is also important to note that we use a 12-quarter smoothing formula to calculate our endowment draw. This approach helps to protect us from swings in the market (up and down). Since compensation increases are recurring expenses, it would not be responsible to support them using one-time endowment gains. We are also still working to rebuild our reserves that were spent during the pandemic so that we have similar safeguards in place should another crisis come our way in the future.

How will AU approach compensation increases to address inflation/cost of living increases? 

Inflation will certainly be a part of our deliberations as we set the merit pool for FY23 and 24. While our merit pools have kept pace with inflation on average, they may be higher or lower in any given year. This issue is very much on our minds.

Will faculty members be compensated when teaching independent studies beyond the required full teaching load?

Historically, AU’s research-active tenure-line faculty had higher course loads (5 or 6 rather than 4). In decreasing to a 4-course load for this group, we took on the risk of not being able to provide compensation for duties like independent studies. From a financial point of view, it would not be feasible to begin offering a stipend or other compensation at this time. We also want to make sure that we’re not taking strong term and tenure-line faculty out of the classroom. Given those circumstances, we encourage departments/programs/schools to ensure that independent studies do not always fall on the same faculty.

Will money be set aside to address salary compression and salary inequities, especially with respect to term faculty?

AU’s salaries need to remain competitive within the DC region. We continue to work toward ensuring that our faculty—including term faculty—are paid salaries that are commensurate with their skills and with their contributions to our educational mission. We recognize that there was some salary compression introduced when we recently raised the floor of the lowest paid term faculty over the course of several years and will need to continue to address this issue moving forward.

What is the status of the Faculty Senate proposal to award/reward senior term faculty (full professor or associate professor level) with sabbatical leave and a teaching reduction, in line with what tenured faculty at the same level get routinely?

In March 2020, the Faculty Senate endorsed the idea of providing full and associate term professors with sabbatical leaves and course releases, which was a proposal that had come through the CFA to the Senate. The previous provost had just begun to look at this option and analyze the costs that would be involved. At that point, there were roughly seven or eight faculty who might have become eligible. That number has since grown (wonderful news, but it would also expand the cost implications of the proposal). Of course, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the university and brought with it a host of financial challenges. At this time, the proposal is not actively being considered, but it has not been dismissed in any formal way and may be revisited in the future.

Can the staff pay band information be made available on the AU HR page?

Information on AU’s pay band structure is available on the MyAU portal (login required). Click on “Work at AU” and then “Human Resources” to access the documents, which are called “FY22 Pay Band Structure for Salaried Staff” and FY22 Pay Band Structure for Hourly Staff.”

How has AU supported workers hired through our contractors (dining, cleaning services, etc.)?

Although AU is not the employer of record, the university stepped in to pay health benefits for these workers during the pandemic. The individuals who serve in these roles remain important members of our community.

Will in-house online programs be eligible for tuition remission?

Since we have not yet launched any homegrown online degree programs, a decision has not yet been made with regard to tuition remission eligibility. Given that AU would not be paying an OPM like 2U, Noodle, or Wiley in this case, the conversation around in-house online programs will be different from the one that we had when our current online offerings were introduced. We will provide an update in response to this question in the future.