FEATURE: Budgeting
The grey skies and rains will end soon, yet as we enter the short legislative session and prepare for the 2019-21 biennial budget late this year, it is useful to remember some keys that affect WOU’s budget.

First, revenues to the university consist of two primary sources: net tuition and the state’s Public University Support Fund (PUSF). Net tuition is determined by a number of factors such as: 1) undergraduate/graduate enrollment mix, 2) resident/non-resident enrollment mix, 3) level of institutional aid provided to students and 4) level of enrollment in these various categories.

For example, each year WOU uses about 11 percent of its tuition revenue as institutional aid to students for tuition. By comparison, other peer institutions devote closer to 15-17 percent to fee remissions. It turns out that this difference is a key reason WOU’s cost of attendance is among the top three for all public four-year institutions in Oregon. We are exploring new approaches to using remissions to increase enrollment for 2018-19.

Strategies such as these are intended to improve enrollment at WOU, which has declined from its peak of more than 5,400 undergraduates in 2011 to fewer than 4,800 currently. This is a decrease in UG enrollment of 12 percent since 2011 and a decrease in graduate enrollment of 35 percent during the same period. Some of the factors involved are: 1) generally flat numbers of Oregon high school graduates coupled with changing demographics and impacts for affordability from lower-income families, 2) increased funding for programs such Oregon Promise that promote enrollment at community colleges, and 3) a robust economy that dampens enrollment in higher education—especially for first-generation college families.

Going forward, the HECC funding model, aka the Student Success and Completion Model (SSCM), will use the most recent three years of student credit hours and degrees completed to determine a significant portion of PUSF funding. Comparing our three-year average for 2013-15 to 2015-17, the average headcount decreased from 5,022 in the earlier period to 4,806—a decrease of 4 percent. This trend will negatively affect WOU’s share of PUSF funding in the coming years. To be frank, our fiscal stability depends on our ability to enroll qualified students and to see these students complete degrees in a timely fashion. We have to be enrollment- and student success-driven.

So, where are we with our budget this year?

As we finished 2016-17, each member of WOU’s Cabinet submitted budget-reduction scenarios that were vetted by the cabinet and forwarded to the University Budget Committee (UBC) for review and consideration. The scenarios totaled nearly $3.5 million. This process was initiated in response to what we expected would be a structural deficit of more than $1 million for FY18.

The UBC considered the proposals in light of the strategic plan with a goal of ensuring continued progress toward degree completion for our students and a focus on the other aspects of the plan. After its deliberations and review, the UBC identified 18 budget-reducing proposals that totaled about $3.2 million. These proposals remain under consideration. Additionally, in fall 2017, we asked each division to develop new initiatives that would support key action items that are supportive of the strategic plan, Forward Together. This process is under way, and the UBC will review a set of initiatives in coming weeks.

Together, the new initiatives and the deficit will lead to a final budget for WOU that will be balanced in FY19. Moreover, WOU will continue to meet its desired goals. For the 2017-18 budget year, the Board of Trustees approved using a portion of our reserves to balance the budget. However, the board expects us to make decisions that will result in a balanced budget for 2018-19. This means that we will use this year to engage in the planning and decision-making process that ensures a balanced budget by July 1, 2018.

In sum, the time is now for WOU to seize the opportunity to make decisions that will help the university flex with changes in funding streams and enrollment trends.


I am pleased to share with you our most recent report from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Our seven-year report in April 2016 led to seven recommendations and a Notice of Concern. As a result of tremendous work of our employees and with the leadership of Dr. Sue Monahan and Provost Steve Scheck, NWCCU has removed the Notice of Concern and placed WOU on a normal review schedule.

This means the March 2018 report requirement has been waived, and our next report will be due in spring 2019 as part of the normal seven-year review process. In addition, all seven recommendations are in compliance, and continued progress is expected on recommendations related to assessment and mission fulfillment. These two areas are examples of the need for continuous improvement that lies at the core of the accreditation process.

This outcome reflects well on WOU’s ability to rise to challenges and is an outward demonstration of significant change and improvement in our work. This achievement would not have been possible without your support of the new mission and strategic plan, which form the basis for all we do.


As part of our focus on mission fulfillment, faculty on campus have been using a tool called TK20 (now called Watermark) for some time in order to monitor student learning outcomes. It’s also been useful in tracking student skills such as analytical analysis and writing for both undergrads and graduate students.

Now, faculty are planning to put several other features of the platform into action, allowing them to efficiently manage accreditation, planning and assessment efforts using real-time data. Here are some of the upcoming functionalities:

  • The university’s strategic plan will be entered into Watermark so units will be able to show how their actions support the plan.
  • Assessment planning will focus on academic programs, allowing units to get away from paper forms, emails and manually updating websites.
  • Watermark may be used to manage student evaluations of WOU courses.
  • Watermark may be used to manage the report writing for the NWCCU report that’s due in spring 2019.
  • As a result of the strategic plan and the accreditation report we submitted to NWCCU, we have created the University Council. The panel has met three times to discuss our progress toward mission fulfillment and continuous improvement. I shared that report with our Board of Trustees. The University Council is made up of the WOU Cabinet, leaders of governance groups and representatives from the two employee unions.
  • Oregon Sen. Jackie Winters will be the Commencement speaker on June 16.
  • Our new master’s in Organizational Leadership is expected to have its first cohort in fall 2019. The program will be targeted toward working professionals and government employees who want to enhance their education in order to move up in their organization.
  • We have received a $500,000 gift from Dr. Richard Woodcock that is slated to fund STEM-related scholarships on campus.
WOU fundraising priorities

WOU Veterans Support Services had a terrific winter, earning several accolades from multiple agencies. Most importantly, the WOU chapter of Student Veterans of America (SVA) won the Chapter of the Year award from among 1,300 SVA chapters nationwide. Second, WOU’s Veterans Services was awarded an $86,700 grant in December from the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs to enhance its Veterans Resource Center. Finally, WOU’s title as a Military Friendly School was upgraded from silver status to gold status.

  • Student scholarships and aid
  • Programs that support students
  • High-impact academic/learning experiences
  • State-of-the-art facilities
  • Competitive Athletics
  • Unrestricted funds

For the full list of upcoming events, visit the campus calendar.


Thanks to everyone who shared stories about faculty and staff members going to special lengths to ensure student success. Here’s an excerpt from one I received, and it’s a real blast from the past:

“I would like to thank John Rector for all of his support and flexibility while working through my degree at Western. John always had an open office and an open ear. I was a poor, first-generation college student from eastern Oregon, and his flexibility, understanding and willingness to work with me was invaluable. John furthered my love of history in the context of story and how the historical narrative was truly multifaceted. Although I didn’t pursue a career in history, my training I received at Western was paramount to the success I have enjoyed in my professional life. It was the application of understanding story and those critical-thinking skills that John honed that really provided the foundation for everything that has come since.” — Jack Ingram ’00

Do you know of a faculty or staff member who has gone above and beyond and should be recognized for their efforts to help students? Fill out this form and let them know you appreciate their focus on student success (I receive a copy too).