Budget and Fall Semester Update

by Bill Wyatt


Wilson Hall

JMU faculty and staff. We are well into a busy fall semester, and I'd like to take few moments to provide you with a brief update on a few noteworthy items for our community.


During my back-to-school message to the campus community, I provided an update on the university budget. At that time, there was great uncertainty surrounding the recently identified revenue shortfall in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the impact it would have on higher education and specifically JMU.

Higher education was required to prepare a 5 percent budget savings plan for the first year (2014-15) of the biennium and a 7 percent budget savings plan for the second year (2015-16). Those plans were submitted to the Commonwealth on September 19. We subsequently learned that the cut for this fiscal year from JMU's general funds would amount to 4.2%. All things considered, we are pleased to report that the impact on higher education and JMU is not as severe as it might have been. Due to excellent financial stewardship, JMU will be able to account for the budget savings using central funds. This will prevent any cuts across divisions and protect JMU's ongoing academic mission. The central funds identified to cover the first year of reductions are approximately $3.1 million (and come primarily from stronger than anticipated enrollment for the fall 2014 semester, as well as reimbursement for capital costs that the university had already incurred). We will continue to monitor the revenue and budget discussions throughout the year to determine the possible impact on the next fiscal year.

Holly McCartney ethics teaching


Continuing to improve compensation for all of our employees remains one of our highest priorities. Our initial recommendations for this years JMU budget included a combination of salary increases, bonuses, and equity adjustment funding. Although the revenue shortfall in the Commonwealth and the subsequent budget reduction have impacted JMU's budget, we're pleased to announce that we are still able to commit to a salary increase of 2 percent for instructional faculty. This increase will be effective November 25, 2014, and will be reflected in the December 16 paycheck for employees hired prior to June 25, 2014. As reflected in our ongoing consultations with the Compensation Advisory Council and our own Six-Year Plan, our research has indicated that we have a particular need to focus on competitive compensation for instructional faculty.

As our plans have also made clear, we continue to seek to value and support our employees. Contingent upon strong spring enrollment numbers, it is also our plan to provide bonuses for Administrative and Professional faculty and classified staff during the spring semester. We will provide further information next semester as we know more about enrollment.

Finally, we will move forward with the annual in-band adjustment process for classified staff this fall (for which approximately $200,000 has been allocated). In-band adjustments will be effective on November 25, 2014, and will be reflected in the December 16 paycheck.

We should mention that the budget already obligates the university to spend millions more on compensation this coming year, as we have seen significant increases in required University contributions to health care and retirement benefits. These are two large components of compensation that often get overlooked when we talk about this subject, but they do cost real money and they do provide real benefits.

As I have said many times, our people are our most important resource at JMU. These compensation decisions reflect that ongoing priority, and we are redoubling our efforts to conserve resources creatively in other ways so that we can continue to make progress on this front. We will continue to pursue these goals in accordance with the university's six-year plan and in consultation with the Compensation Advisory Council. I'm pleased that we are able to share this good news with our faculty and staff, especially during tough budget times. I am grateful to all of you for your dedication and commitment, and believe that we will continue to accomplish great things by working together.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Council of Presidents Meet at JMU

New strategic planThe State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the State Council of Presidents held their individual and joint fall meetings at JMU on September 15 and 16. This was an opportunity for us to showcase to both of these important entities the many outstanding educational programs and initiatives at JMU.

We received numerous compliments on our programs, campus, staff and hospitality. They were especially impressed with JMU's new strategic plan and indeed have adopted some of our themes for their own statewide strategic plan.

It takes a great deal of planning and work to implement meetings on the scale required by both of these councils. Our staff did an incredible job in organizing and facilitating two days of productive events.

Valley Scholars in Fastival Ballroom

Valley Scholars Program

Earlier this month we welcomed the inaugural class of 35 Valley Scholars to campus; these are 8th-grade students from seven different school districts in the Shenandoah Valley. This exciting new program is aimed at providing access for students in our own region who might otherwise not dare to dream that college was an option for them. The university will engage these students, their families and support networks to help prepare them for college.

JMU worked with school districts throughout the area to identify middle-school students with academic promise that come from first-generation college families and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. The university will work with these students, their families and support networks over the next five years to help prepare them for college. Valley Scholars are promised full-tuition scholarships to JMU if they are admitted.

Students, families and teachers visited campus on September 13th for an introduction to the program. Students became acquainted with one another and formed teams they will be working on all year. They ended the day by attending the JMU football game.

All of the Valley Scholars participated, which was a perfect way for us to start the program. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic support from JMU faculty and staff members, as well as the partner city and county schools.

A few individuals, foundations and corporations have come forward early to support the initial vision for Valley Scholars. For this pilot to be sustained for the long term, we will need partners to step up to aid these outstanding students and bolster the program with philanthropic support. Thanks to a generous grant from the duPont Foundation, we are able to pilot the program this fall.

Shaun Mooney is heading up this ambitious new program. Let him know if you'd like to help in some way this will be a tremendous team effort!

Justice Mims

Madison Vision Lecture Series

We kicked off our second year of the Madison Vision Series lectures with a visit from Virginia Supreme Court Justice William Mims on September 17 as part of our Constitution Day celebration. Bill is a Harrisonburg native who grew up with JMU as his playground. His lecture titled Be It Ever So Humble: Justice as a Virtue was a fitting topic for Constitution Day on our campus.

His lecture attracted a number of people from the community, and it was encouraging to see yet another example of Harrisonburg and JMU coming together.

Please join us for upcoming lectures this fall:

  • Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, who will join us on October 16
  • We will host the Rwandan Debate Team on November 5 to round out our fall lectures.

In the spring we will host:

  • Mary Ann Mason, co-director of the Center for Economics and Family Security at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. She is an expert on family law and work-life balance.
  • Lawrence Lessig, Professor at Harvard Law School and Director of the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard; an expert on cyberspace and intellectual property.

I am so pleased to see how the Madison Vision Lecture series has taken hold over the past year to generate discourse in our campus community. I encourage everyone to attend the presentations planned for the rest of the 2014-2015 academic year.


I am grateful for the many contributions you make to James Madison University and look forward to our work together for the remainder of the semester. Happy autumn to all!

Jonathan R. Alger

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Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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