In the spirit of information-sharing and with a commitment to fostering openness among the St. John’s University community, we are pleased to share some of the topics, highlights, and action items discussed at the most recent meeting of the Board of Trustees held on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. We look forward to regularly sharing with you additional and timely information on these and other initiatives in the months ahead.
FY22 Operating Budget
The University will begin a new fiscal year on June 1. As the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine continues, St. John’s expects to return to normal business operations in FY22, continuing COVID safety protocols as appropriate. With gratitude for the tremendous efforts by the enrollment management team – in partnership with faculty, administrators, and staff – to implement several new student recruitment and enrollment strategies, we are cautiously optimistic about our preliminary fall 2021 enrollment statistics. Still, the University’s FY22 revenues are projected to be lower than our pre-COVID revenue base. Multi-year enrollment and revenue impacts associated with the fall 2020 first-year enrollment shortfall have placed continuing pressure on tuition and room and board revenues. In addition, we are experiencing the continuing impact of the pandemic on student demographic and secondary market enrollment. Given the significance of the projected revenue shortfall and the need to fund essential “return-to-normal” expense restorations and student services, as well as to make necessary investments in support of enrollment and revenue recovery initiatives, St. John’s plans to bridge the projected budget gap principally with federal stimulus funds and a special draw from the University’s unrestricted endowment fund. Moving forward, St. John’s will continue to implement initiatives that will increase revenues and limit expense growth to achieve budget equilibrium. The Board approved a three percent (3%) increase in tuition for FY22; continuing students will receive a separate communication about the increase.
The Board approved the FY22 budget as presented.
Student Marketplace, Enrollment Strategies, and Fall 2021 Enrollment Update
The student marketplace for higher education continues to be challenging, particularly in the Northeast. For example, the number of SAT and ACT test-takers was down -38% and -26%, respectively, last November as compared to the previous year. Furthermore, Common App numbers for first-generation college applicants and FAFSA completions are also significantly down, and, the marketplace is becoming even more competitive with discount rates across the sector trending upward. To mitigate some of these challenges, several new recruitment initiatives were implemented during the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 including enhanced search, financial aid, and grant strategies; improved communication strategies; and proactive outreach by faculty to admitted students. These strategies have proven to be successful as we are on target to reach our student enrollment goal for fall 2021.
A presentation and discussion on the Student Marketplace, Enrollment Strategies, and Fall 2021 Enrollment Update was shared with the Board.
LGBTQ+ Climate Assessment Results
Earlier this year, the University engaged the Transgender Training Institute (“TTI”) to conduct an LGBTQ+ Climate Assessment. The full report can be accessed here. TTI conducted over 16 focus groups and individual meetings with students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff, and administrators, and their report addressed several areas of focus: LGBTQ+ experiences on campus; how the University communicates support for LGBTQ+ people; the University commitment to LGBTQ+ people, programs; and services for LGBTQ+ people and academics. TTI identified University strengths, areas of growth, and recommendations for how to shift our campus climate towards one that is more welcoming of our LGBTQ+ community members. Some of the recommendations include ensuring that our LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts align with University antiracist and anti-ableist efforts; providing Staten Island specific resources; issuing explicit statements of welcome and action from University leadership at all levels; and integrating LGBTQ+ specific strategies into the University strategic plan.
A presentation and discussion on the LGBTQ+ Climate Assessment Results were shared with the Board.
Strategic Planning Update
The Board of Trustees reviewed the progress to date on the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for St. John’s. The Board reviewed the membership of the Strategic Planning Committee, the timeline for the development of the plan, and possible themes for the plan. The Strategic Planning Committee will hold its next meeting on Tuesday, June 1 and will continue to meet over the summer and into the fall.
New and departing Trustees
Finally, the Board of Trustees welcomed three new members:
Two Trustees, Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C. and Rev. Gregory P. Cozzubbo, C.M., have left the Board of Trustees. Sr. Carol and Fr. Greg were thanked for their many contributions to St. John’s. Members of the Vincentian Community will be elected to replace Sr. Carol and Fr. Greg.
The Board of Trustees will next meet in October.