Recently, there has been a good deal of discussion across the university about the budgetary pressures we are experiencing as a result of a decline, over the past several years, in the number of students enrolled in our graduate and professional programs. (Undergraduate enrollment has not been affected by this trend.) Despite significant growth in both fundraising and research funding, George Washington remains a highly tuition-dependent institution; in fact, tuition revenues provide almost 75 percent of what we spend on all our programs each year. So it makes a difference when graduate and professional enrollments fall, as they have, by about 1,200 students—even though our total student body numbers almost 25,000.
Many people on our faculty and staff have been working very hard across the institution to address this challenge, both through efforts to increase enrollments and through sometimes painful reductions in expenditures. On the enrollment side, some of those efforts have been focused on attracting more students to existing programs, while others are focused on creating new programs both on and off our main campuses. But such efforts take time to achieve their intended results. We will need to continue reducing expenditures until enrollments are restored at least to the level we enjoyed just a few years ago.
Already this year, the university administration has taken steps to cut travel and training costs, delay hiring of new staff and reduce discretionary spending. For next year, all administrative units have been asked to reduce their budgets by 5 percent. Managers of those units will be making some hard decisions, which in some cases may involve the elimination of staff positions. But we will not be cutting undergraduate student aid, abandoning our fixed tuition policy or backing away from our commitment to expand student health and career services.
At the same time, the deans and directors of our schools and colleges will be seeking ways to balance their budgets—again by growing enrollments and reducing expenditures—while at the same time preserving, and in some cases rebuilding, the reserves they need to invest in their strategic priorities. It is critically important that we not allow our current budgetary problem to prevent us from continuing to fulfill our mission or from realizing the aspirations embodied in our strategic plan.
I want to express my personal gratitude to all who are working so diligently and creatively to help us make our way through these challenges and to keep the George Washington University on track to achieve the stature we know it will enjoy as it enters, in just a few years, its third century.