The University of Hartford today released to the University community its report of the strategic prioritization initiative it announced publicly in September. The goal of the initiative is to focus the University's resources on its highest priorities in order to reduce costs, hold tuition increases as low as possible, and focus funding on its priorities in a very tight economy. The report, which offers two implementation plans, one for academic programs and one for administrative programs, was released to University faculty, staff, and students on Friday in a message from University President Walter Harrison.
The two implementation plans are part of a process the University calls Foundation of the Future. The plans were developed based on three months of campus discussions and deliberations on recommendations released in September. Those recommendations had been prepared by two task forces of faculty and staff who spent six months reviewing, prioritizing, and placing 308 administrative and academic programs into four categories — receive investment of more resources, be maintained as is, be restructured, or be divested. Each task force had been given a target amount to identify for possible reallocation. The academic task force was asked to identify $3.2 million and the administrative task force was asked to identify $3.584 million.
In his message to the University community, President Harrison said, “The goal of Foundation of the Future is to determine where University resources should be focused without increasing the University’s overall budget. At this time when we cannot count on increased net revenues, we need resources to improve our competitive position and to meet our students’ needs. To find these resources we must reduce the number of programs we offer, increase efficiencies in delivery of core services, and reallocate the resulting resources to provide better support to priority programs.”
“Some of the decisions in the plans have been extremely difficult and painful to make,” Harrison continued. “Beginning today, we have eliminated three full-time and one part-time staff positions. Over the rest of calendar year 2013, we anticipate eliminating approximately 11 additional positions, four of which are currently unfilled. Eight other positions will be reduced from twelve-month to ten-month positions.” All staff members whose positions will be eliminated at any point during this year were notified by University officials today.
Implementation of the academic plan is in its very early stages so impact on full-and part-time faculty is not yet clear. Harrison’s statement on the impact on students, however, is clear. “I wish to state as strongly as possible,” he said, “that regardless of ultimate actions to restructure or divest programs, all currently enrolled students in those programs will be able to complete their degrees.”
The administrative implementation plan identifies $2.650 million for reallocation over a five-year period. The academic plan identifies approximately $0.512 million, a figure that will increase as proposed closures of academic programs are considered following the University’s Manual of Academic Policies and Procedures (MAPP), a step-by-step process that can take several months. Additional resources will likely be identified as the University reviews reports requested from several academic and administrative programs that were recommended for closure but deferred pending further study. Deferral does not mean that divestment will definitely not occur; rather, it means that additional information must be gathered and/or work must be done before a final decision can be made.
“I am confident that this process will help strengthen the University’s focus and make it better able to weather the uncertain economic times in which we live,” Harrison said. “I believe these are reasonable and prudent actions to take that will, over time, make the University more robust.”
A vital next step in the Foundation of the Future initiative, Harrison says, is development of a new strategic plan. “The strategic planning process will focus on major themes for the next five years, producing a shared vision that represents major institutional opportunities and identifies key directions and areas of investment.”
Chartered in 1957 with the mission to be a “private university with a public purpose,” the University of Hartford offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in the arts, humanities, business, engineering and technology, education, and the health professions. The University’s student body of more than 7,000 represents 45 states and nearly 60 countries. For more information, visit www.hartford.edu.