Bradley weathering the economic storm

As the world’s economy begins to regain its footing a year after the market meltdown, university officials continue to be cautiously optimistic about Bradley’s financial position.
“We’re holding our own, we just have to stay at it,” said Gary Anna, vice president for business affairs. “It’s not a crisis [for Bradley], but we have to pay attention. Nobody’s out of the woods yet.”
Bradley was destined to have a hard couple of years at the start of last fall because the incoming freshman class was significantly under the goal set, which will equate to millions of dollars lost by the time that class graduates.
But a few weeks into the year, as the stock market crashed and the bailouts began, things looked to get a lot harder.
“We had to make $2.5 million in cuts,” Anna said. “Our commitment was to make those cuts without influencing the educational experience, and we were able to do it without laying anyone off.”
The cuts were made through increasing efficiency in operations and not filling empty positions. In fact, about $400,000 in that $2.5 million came from newer, more efficient heating and cooling systems. Some senior administrators accepted pay freezes for last year, something that could be continued this year, though nothing’s for sure yet.
The goal for the cuts was to ensure they came from areas that wouldn’t affect students, something Anna said the school accomplished.
Other schools weren’t so lucky.
According to Time, Arizona State University cut 48 undergraduate and graduate courses from its catalog. Stanford University laid off 49 staffers in its graduate school of business and Massachusetts Institute of Technology cut eight varsity sports, saving $485,000.
Bradley was also put in an interesting situation when trying to find things to cut because though the freshman class was smaller, it wasn’t small enough to cut classes and programs across the board.
“If you have two less students in each class, that doesn’t reduce the need of professors,” Anna said. “So we had to find other ways of cutting back.”
One significant cost saver was the transition of the course catalog from a hard copy to online only, he said.
Though this year’s freshman class was higher than the goal set, enrollment is still down, and recruiting strong freshmen classes in the future will remain a top priority.
“The larger, richer institutions had to make immediate changes because they rely on their endowments so much, and many of their endowments were down 30 or 40 percent,” Anna said. “It was kind of unusual because the smaller endowments are doing better.”
Bradley’s endowment took a 20 percent hit last year, but the university wasn’t as heavily affected because the endowment isn’t relied on to cover as much as those at larger schools are. The endowment here popped back above $200 million this year, but isn’t back to where it was two years ago.
Overall, as a result of cautious planning, it seems Bradley’s doing OK right now.
“We’re being responsive,” Anna said. “We’re just trying to look to the future.”