Committee updates Faculty Council on anticipated budget gap: Team is ‘losing sleep’ to mend budget without impact to faculty and staff


Patrick Sloan-Turner

Faculty Council President Sonia Soltero speaks to council members in attendance at a meeting last year.

At almost every Faculty Council meeting this academic year, one topic has dominated discussion more than any other: DePaul’s budget.

Due to declining enrollment, cashflow obstacles caused by the pandemic, increased inflation and more, institutions of higher education throughout the U.S. face escalating budgetary strain and DePaul is no different.

At Wednesday’s Faculty Council meeting, members of a committee tasked with balancing the university’s budget for next academic year updated concerned council members on the plan to curb DePaul’s budget gap. 

Faculty Council President Sonia Soltero and council member Tom Mondschean are members of the Strategic Resource Allocation Committee (SRAC), a group that DePaul President Robert Manuel tasked with creating a plan to cut costs to mend DePaul’s financial strain.

“We have been working in groups in SRAC to figure out what to do,” Monschean said, referring to the committee’s deliberations regarding how much they will recommend be cut from particular areas. “It’s been divided into three areas: faculty expenses, staff expenses and departmental expenses.”

A budget gap refers to the difference between revenue and the costs of running the university. These costs include things like faculty and staff salaries, regular maintenance, travel expenses and more. As of now, it is unclear just how substantial the budget gap will be for the next school year, but Soltero and Mondschean said it is sizable.

The budget for the current academic year demanded much of SRAC’s attention in the fall, and Soltero said that SRAC is now working on a tight deadline to figure out the gap for next school year because of it. 

“We are in a time crunch of sorts, plus, the amount of the budget gap is pretty sizable,” Soltero said. “So, we’re really trying to look at… cost savings that don’t impact people.”

SRAC is working on putting together recommendations for where certain colleges should make cuts, but do not want to do so without discourse with those directly affected.

“We would like faculty to be at the table and be part of the process to identify where these budget reductions will occur,” Mondschean said.

At January’s Faculty Council meeting, DePaul Provost Salma Ghanem told those in attendance that the budget is affecting her office and administration in a major way, too. Financial anxiety has demanded ongoing evaluation of hiring and long-term contract requests for current faculty members.

In a letter to faculty from Manuel in December said that cost-cutting would be coming but wrote “we will focus on being as protective as possible of salary adjustments, securing positions around the university and maintaining the academic quality DePaul is known for delivering.”

Some faculty members in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting expressed frustration with the ongoing budget issues that DePaul has dealt with in recent years. One member asked why DePaul seems to continue to be “behind the 8-ball,” to which Mondschean and Soltero explained that enrollment decline and the pandemic are major factors, but still, only one piece of the pie.

Between 2020 and 2022, U.S. colleges and universities experienced a more than 9% decrease in undergraduate enrollment, equating to a decrease of nearly 1.4 million students, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report. At DePaul, a decline in graduate students is a major culprit in the impending budget gap, as far fewer graduate students are enrolled and paying tuition than in years past.

“It didn’t help that 800 graduate students did not come to the college last year like we thought they would,” Mondschean said Wednesday.

With budgetary headaches also comes anxiety from faculty and staff concerning job security, along with worry concerning the quality of education and resources on campus. Though SRAC is tasked with an uphill battle, Soltero said the committee’s primary goal is to mend the situation without hurting the DePaul community, which has not been easy.

“We’re trying to as much as possible, reduce impact on those major things [like] people potentially losing their job or having more work with less, and student academic experience and student support,” Soltero said. “We are working super hard and many of us are losing sleep, because these [things] are very serious.”