Published by Inside Higher Ed
Faced with tight budgets, a nagging deficit and a reduced endowment, Drew University, a small, private liberal arts institution west of New York City, has opted to expand -- not trim -- academic offerings. To reduce its operating budget, Drew is cutting, among other line items, cops and sippy cups.
President MaryAnn Baenninger said the university has refused to cut virtually any student-facing programs. “Our plan has been to grow and then get more efficient,” she said.
On the chopping block: nonacademic expenses and fringe benefits for faculty and staff ranging from public safety to retiree health-care subsidies to daycare.
Baenninger said aggressive cost-cutting should close Drew’s funding gap in three years. But instead of cutting academics, Drew has pushed to woo new students by creating new undergraduate majors in media and communications, public health, and cybersecurity, as well as master’s-level programs in finance and education. It added men’s and women’s golf teams and is redesigning its theological school curriculum.”
David Strauss, a principal at Art & Science Group, a Baltimore-based consulting firm that advises universities on strategy, said each institution must preserve the “core of your reason for being.” Other expenditures -- even those that employees have come to expect and rely upon -- aren’t necessarily worth keeping if they don’t accomplish this. “That often means that an institution has to prune at areas that are not at the core of its reason for being,” he said. Such cuts can be painful, especially if they serve the greater public or are highly valued, like day care or dependent health care. “But we have to take a step back strategically and realize that not all institutions can afford to be doing all things.”
…Strauss wouldn’t comment specifically on Drew’s efforts -- Art & Science has consulted with the university on its Launch effort, for one thing. He said all institutions are “idiosyncratic,” and that virtually no solution will work across all of them. “Suffice to say that whenever you hear people say, “Institution X is doing this and it’s really working for them -- we should go do it too,’ they’re almost always wrong.”