Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Coombe says University is weathering financial storm with ‘sacrifice’

The economic condition of the nation has — and still is — trying the resiliency of the University, Chancellor Robert Coombe said in his Oct. 2 Convocation address to approximately 640 faculty and staff at Magness Arena.

“If we bend but don’t break, they are times of extraordinary opportunity,” Coombe said.

He said the University finished fiscal 2009 with a positive operating margin and predicted DU will stay on track for another balanced budget this year.

Coombe attributed DU’s good financial footing to a combination of budget cuts, a moratorium on salary increases in 2010 and last winter’s realignment — in which DU staff was reduced by 122 positions. The full impact of realignment, he said, will be felt in the current year and years to follow.

Of the money saved this year, more than $4.5 million has gone to support increases in student financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students. Another $3.5 million of the realignment funds were used to support new faculty positions and fill some essential positions left vacant after some staff members took voluntary buy-outs as part of realignment, Coombe explained.

The rest of the saved funds were used to hold down tuition increases. This year’s tuition increase was the lowest, as a percentage, in 10 years.

Coombe called himself “deeply, deeply grateful” for the University community’s sacrifices.

“They were made possible by you, by your sacrifice, and by the sacrifice of those who are no longer with us,” Coombe said.

In lieu of a merit increase, Coombe announced this year’s increase in health insurance premiums that went into effect July 1 will be rolled back to zero and the same will happen for the parking permit increases.

“It seems that the least we might do is to make certain that it doesn’t cost you any more to work at DU this year,” he said.

He said faculty and staff can expect to see a change in either their November or December paycheck.

While Coombe spent time addressing the University’s financial position, he also took time to highlight the University’s accomplishments.

Fall enrollments for the University total more than 12,000 students, greater than in any year since World War II. Coombe called the quality of students “unabated,” adding that nearly half of the first-year students were in the top-10 percent of their high school classes.

“Good students continue to be attracted to quality and value, even in a bad economy,” Coombe assured. He thanked the admissions and the student financial aid offices for a “truly, truly superb effort” in recruiting students this year.

Graduate student enrollment was particularly high, he said, citing specifically growth at the Women’s College and University College.

In a sign of the down economic times, DU raised more than $43 million in gifts last year. DU’s best fundraising year was 2007, when gifts totaled $76 million.

Coombe stressed that the goal for the University is still clear: “to remain a great private University dedicated to the public good.”

Coombe said the University will still focus on success in graduate professional programs, an issue Coombe spotlighted during last year’s Convocation address. He cited the Sturm College of Law, the Daniels College of Business, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Morgridge College of Education as strong examples of graduate academic success.

Coombe also recognized DU’s student-athletes — notably DU’s hockey team, which is ranked No. 1 in preseason polls and is celebrating their 60th anniversary this year — for their competitive teams and their academic accomplishments. DU student-athletes, he pointed out, have average GPAs and graduate rates that exceed the student population as a whole. He also recognized DU Athletics for winning its second consecutive Director’s Cup as the best I-AAA program in the country.

In addition to DU Athletics, a new branding initiative is building greater national visibility for DU, Coombe said.

“We are a great private University dedicated to the public good and we want everyone to know about it…we will be the model.”

Comments are closed.