As the University of Wyoming looks to establish a more reliably self-sustaining financial base, its leaders are asking for more from the UW Foundation.
UW’s leaders are still grappling with a reduction in state block grant funding in excess of $40 million. President Laurie Nichols said navigating the fiscal crisis has been difficult and wants UW to be in a position going forward where any future cuts in state funding won’t be as damaging.
“It’s been hard work, and it’s had an impact on the university,” Nichols said during a Dec. 7 public listening session in Laramie. “Part of what’s on us is to make sure, as we are bringing down state funding and reducing our block grant, that we’re also looking at other ways we can make our finances, our revenue, sustainable in the long-term.”
Nichols said students are likely to carry some of the burden with a 4 percent tuition increase, along with proposals to add program-specific fees across the board. UW is also in the process of implementing new fiscal and administrative systems through an investment likely to total about $30 million when complete. Additionally, UW will probably lose 300-400 employee positions — a number that could go up if the State Legislature makes further cuts to the university’s grant funding. On top of everything else, Nichols and other top UW officials just completed a round of statewide listening sessions in the development of a new strategic plan to guide the university through the next five years.
In fiscal year 2016, the UW Foundation — which raises money from alumni and other private contributors to support the university — raised the most it has in a single year of fund raising in its more than 50-year history, topping $63 million. But given the budgetary challenges UW is facing, Nichols said she’s hoping the foundation is up to the lofty task of exceeding that amount in the coming year.
“We’re going to be asking the foundation to step up and bring in even more money to this university that has been done in the past,” Nichols said. “And they do a great job — just look at that number, in (fiscal year) 2016, they raised $63 million for this university. They’re doing great, but I’m going to ask them to do more. This is a time where we need private support to help us.”
Ben Blalock is the UW Foundation president and CEO. Undaunted by the fiscal crisis, Blalock said the foundation and its contributors are looking forward to working with Nichols and the strategic plan. Records such as the foundation’s one-year fundraising record are “made to be broken,” he said.
“The objective of the foundation is always to exceed each and every one of our goals, so we’re delighted President Nichols has put such a focus on private support for the University of Wyoming,” he said. “The strategic plan will certainly play a key role and really help to clarify for the UW family — that includes alumni and friends, but also corporations and foundations that support UW — to really understand the vision of where the university is headed and that private support will play a key role.”
While foundation contributors are aware of the fiscal crisis, Blalock said the mood remains optimistic. Enthusiasm surrounding UW’s new administrative leaders, the turnaround success of its football program, infrastructure development on campus and more outshone the budgetary challenges of late, he said.
“There’s clearly awareness in the alumni family, but when you look at all the great things happening, it’s easy for folks who support the university to get excited about what they see on campus,” Blalock said. “We take great pride in being significantly state funded and our strong partnership with the Wyoming Legislature, but we always want the alumni base, friends and other supporters to understand that private support plays a critical role at UW and will play an even more critical role going forward.”