Budget Process & Financial Planning

2020 Strategic Planning Budget Review

A Letter from Chancellor Marty Meehan 12/9/2014

The university has completed six years of budget development under the UMass Lowell 2020 strategic planning framework (FY2010 – FY2015). Consistent with the goals of the plan, we appointed a Financial Planning Committee to increase transparency, foster inclusiveness in short- and long-term operating and capital budgeting decisions and empower managers while also increasing accountability and responsibility. We’ve made tremendous progress in targeting investments to our highest priorities, including more than $37 million in new funding to Academic Affairs over the last five years for new faculty as well as programs and services to support student success. 

That progress is attributable to the hard work and commitment from numerous individuals and groups across campus and is a testament to the power of strong collaboration. The Financial Planning Committee membership includes representation from each academic college, the president of the Faculty Senate, the Executive Cabinet and other administrators. New funding and support for fixed cost increases and ongoing operations are underwritten by campuswide efforts to reallocate funds within unit budgets, initiatives to control costs and create savings through operational efficiencies and increased use of technology. Simultaneously, the Division of Online and Continuing Education, Office of University Advancement, Office of Residence Life, Office of Hospitality and Event Services, Campus Dining and Auxiliary Services, as well as our research initiatives, continue their successful efforts to expand alternative revenue sources to sustain our strategic plan.

The Financial Planning Committee annually holds a series of hearings to review campus budget planning assumptions. It meets with the head of each major budgetary unit to identify strategic areas of investment, track success and identify challenges to be considered by the Executive Cabinet when it makes final budget allocation decisions.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accrediting team identified our “very inclusive and transparent planning, communications and problem-solving processes” as a campus strength, but suggested that we continue to increase transparency in the allocation of resources. To this end, below is a brief summary of our FY2015 budget decisions. 

Out of a total budget of $352 million, there were more than $23 million in new funding requests for FY2015 presented to the committee. Based on the enrollment, revenue and fixed cost projections identified through the budget development process, we were able to allocate $11.1 million in new funds for several key campus priorities, including student services, high-quality teaching, entrepreneurial learning and research, student financial aid and the ongoing build-out of our Division l athletics program. 

In addition to these strategic investments, the budget funds fixed cost increases of more than $9.1 million for debt service, utilities, system office assessments and fringe benefits in FY2015. 

Recent action by the State Legislature and Governor Patrick approved the terms and conditions of a number of university collective bargaining agreements which have been ratified, but did not provide the necessary funding to cover the costs to implement them. Further guidance from the University President's Office and the Baker Administration will be required in determining next steps.

The following table summarizes FY2015 new funding allocations in major program areas: 

Division Amount Purpose/Goal
Academic Affairs  $3,600,000 Maintain 18:1 student-faculty ratio and foster excellence in instruction, learning and advising. (Note: an additional $1 million in Enhancement Funds for student success initiatives has been allocated.)
Advancement $150,000 Invest in staffing for comprehensive Capital Campaign which will help secure the university’s financial future and advance our mission.
Athletics & Recreation $2,940,000 Support multi-year plan to elevate Athletics to Division l status and expand recreation opportunities for all students.
Financial Aid $1,963,000 Support access and enrollment growth and increase transfer student yield.
Finance & Operations $1,300,000  Continue transformation of campus facilities, fund operating costs of new buildings and improve parking and transportation services.
Student Affairs $237,000 Support growth in Student Disability and Health Services to promote wellness and inclusion, Title IX compliance and violence prevention.
Student Services/UCrossing $750,000 Fund the new Solution Center, the one-stop student services center and programming at University Crossing.
University Relations $135,000 Invest in expanded web-based and mobile applications to ensure effective communications. 
Total New Funding $11,075,000 

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, fall enrollments have indeed grown and the state appropriation allocated to the campus increased as anticipated.