Opinion

Letter to the Editor: “Good Results Reaffirm Loyola’s Strong Leadership at the Top”

Courtesy of Loyola University ChicagoThe AAUP's letter outlined concerns with Rooney's governance at the university.

Wayne Magdziarz is the Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer at Loyola University Chicago. 

Overall, Loyola University Chicago (LUC) is now stronger than ever.

How well Loyola is positioned for the future was detailed in a recent letter from the Board of Trustees responding to a letter from the Lakeside chapter of LUC’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) branch.

In its letter, the Board clearly reaffirmed that it “fully and unequivocally” supports President Jo Ann Rooney and shares her vision for the future of Loyola University Chicago’s three area campuses and our John Felice Rome Center.

This exchange was the subject of a piece that The Phoenix student newspaper posted June 17 and headlined, “Faculty Association Says Rooney is ‘Ill-Equipped’ to Lead University.”

Key examples of Rooney’s leadership successes detailed in the Board letter but omitted from the piece include:

  • Successful completion of the Examen process resulted in the reaffirmation of our status as a Jesuit university that carries out its mission in a highly effective manner.
  • Our solid financial position allows our university to continue to provide competitive salary and benefits to attract and retain key talent. In the recently concluded 2019-20 hiring season, Loyola once again attracted an outstanding and diverse group of new faculty members and three outstanding new deans who will join our academic community.
  • Our university’s academic reputation has never been stronger. For the first time, at least half of our incoming freshman class this fall will be coming from outside of Illinois, which speaks to Loyola’s growing national reputation.

Loyola continues its diligent search process to hire a new provost and vice president of advancement responsible for fundraising and alumni engagement. It’s fair to say that this has taken longer than hoped or expected. It’s also fair to say that the process is focused on finding the right leaders for these vital roles and that the process is moving forward.

For higher education nationally, including Loyola, these are challenging times. The following facts provide needed context about the higher education landscape. Local schools and some of our key competitors have experienced significant reductions in force and across-the-board budget reductions over the past four years alone:

  • In 2018, Northwestern University cut 80 staff and implemented across-the-board budget reductions of between 5 and 10 percent.
  • In 2017, St. Louis University cut 250 positions – 120 of which were reductions in force after announcing a $16 million budget deficit.
  • In 2018, DePaul University announced the reduction of 62 staff (3.5 percent of their workforce).
  • In 2017, Northeastern University cut 180 positions.
  • In 2016, the University of Chicago announced an 8 percent reduction in all academic budgets

Claims about austerity budget cuts are not supported by the facts.

Thanks in part to Loyola’s conservative fiscal approach and some admittedly tough choices, such as Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) and English Language Learning Program (ELLP), Loyola continues to be competitive in a very competitive market. The following facts serve as proof points:

  • Loyola has had no reductions in force. We executed a voluntary staff early retirement program in 2018. Our staff headcount has increased by 23 percent over the past 10 years.
  • Loyola has not made any across-the-board budget reductions for personnel or non-salary operating budgets to either the academic or non-academic sectors.
  • Across the academic sector of Loyola from 2017 through 2019, our net additional investment of new money was $2.6 million for programs and operating budget increases.
  • Loyola has provided faculty and staff salary increases for the past 10 years in a row. The annual percentage of the merit pool has exceeded the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in nine of those 10 years, exceeding the CPI by an average of 1 percent.
  • In the past three years, Loyola has provided an additional $1.5 million in faculty equity adjustments – above the merit pools – for 440 faculty across the university.
  • Loyola has invested another $4 million in non-tenure track faculty compensation across the university for the present fiscal year.
  • In the past two fiscal years, Loyola has provided an additional $1 million for graduate student stipend increases and increases to graduate student insurance benefits. 

We have been able to do this because of Loyola’s ongoing sound leadership, which has resulted in:

  • Our undergraduate freshmen enrollment for the past three years climbing to record levels. This has “shored up” graduate enrollments, which have experienced significant declines over the past six years (in 2019, we are $20 million less in graduate net tuition revenue than we were in 2013).
  • Our retention efforts producing a steady increase in freshmen to sophomore retention – now more than 85 percent.
  • Loyola’s undergraduate discount rate being held steady despite rising rates among our key competitors and overall pressure to increase rates, which are well above 50 percent at many institutions (Loyola’s has held steady around 48 percent).
  • Our six-year graduation rates increasing to 77.2 percent from 74.9 percent.
  • Loyola earning a bond rating upgrade in 2018 from Moody’s Investor Services because we have consistently maintained strong operating cash flow margins and a healthy ratio of debt to cash and liquidity – in other words, a prudent and responsible financial management. 

Taken as a whole – academically, from our Jesuit mission standpoint and from a financial stewardship perspective – that’s good leadership.

While all these good results reaffirm Loyola’s strong leadership at the top — with the many challenges facing higher education, we will need to continue exercising vigilance across the university to help ensure that we can maintain both our strong financial position and sustain our strong competitive academic position well into the future.

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