Dear VCU Faculty Members:

Thank you for all that you have done to make this a successful academic year for the amazing students we serve.

As we head into the summer months I want to share with you some of the challenges facing VCU along with some of the efforts that we are taking, in collaboration with members of our faculty and staff, to manage our immediate concerns and better position the university for long-term success.

VCU faces a significant budget deficit as we move into FY2024. Several factors contribute to this challenge including:

  • Four consecutive years of declining student enrollment;
  • The pressures of inflation and rising costs felt across the entire economy; and
  • The uncertainty surrounding this year’s state budget and what it will contain.

We are not alone in managing financial hardships. As recent media reports indicate, West Virginia University (WVU) is cutting its budget by $75 million; Rutgers University is facing a budget deficit of $125 million; and Penn State University is addressing a deficit of $150 million, among others.

VCU’s challenges are further compounded by a combination of factors facing all of higher education. That includes the shrinking population of traditional college-age students; greater competition from other postsecondary providers and questions about the value of a baccalaureate degree; and technology-driven change that is rapidly altering the needs of workplace skills across nearly all career fields. 

VCU is an outlier in Virginia: we are the only large public institution in the state that is shrinking. The University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University and Old Dominion University enjoy increasing enrollment. Newly-developed programs responsive to emerging market needs drive, among other factors, that growth. VCU programs, that appear on the surface to match those offered at the other institutions, have smaller enrollments and slower growth rates.

The culmination of these sector-wide and VCU-specific challenges threaten our ability to reach the stretch enrollment and student success goals articulated in the Quest 2028 strategic plan. We must take deliberate action to turn that around.  We need to act urgently to elevate  the VCU student experience, augment the value of our degrees, and respond swiftly to emerging market needs by offering academic programs that are exciting, engaging, and relevant to career opportunities in a fast-changing world.

I assembled a task force to help us do that inclusively and with alacrity. The OneVCU Academic Repositioning Task Force will begin its work this summer. Grounded in VCU’s commitment to shared governance, the task force will include academic deans, faculty members, representatives of our faculty senate, as well as staff members and students across the entire institution.

The task force will consider the number of, and structure of, VCU’s academic units, offering recommendations designed to maximize operational efficiencies and collaboration between programs; facilitate more cross-unit engagement and transdisciplinary research opportunities for our faculty; and propose new transdisciplinary degree programs to support the success of our students in the emerging future of work. Trust and transparency are the guiding principles of this work. 

To that end, I invite you to follow and engage with the work of the task force through the web page for the Office of the Provost. That page includes task force resources, such as a document containing questions and answers resulting from discussions I had with units across VCU this past spring semester. Further direct conversations that I have had with students illuminated the urgency of this work.

Running parallel to the OneVCU Academic Repositioning Task Force, academic affairs will be working with all schools and colleges to implement an academic program productivity analysis. The analysis will be tied, in part, to a formula for assessing productivity required by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), and the VCU Graduate School will play an important role for graduate programs. For the first time in VCU’s history, we will have a comprehensive snapshot of our nearly 200 academic degree programs for data-informed planning.

Collaborating with faculty members on this work is critical. Ever since I have joined VCU, I have been continually impressed with the passion, brilliance, and creativity of our faculty. I am excited to see the ideas of our faculty for transforming VCU into a university that will not only thrive but emerge as a leader in this rapidly-changing academic landscape for the benefit of our students and our communities. Further, I am committed to continuing to invest in innovative faculty members by working with our deans to support, recognize, and proactively retain faculty who earn national and international distinction for their extraordinary accomplishments and impacts.

Meanwhile, VCU will continue to manage its budget with fiscal discipline in the immediate future. That includes offering single year renewals for term faculty members whose current contract expires this year. Term faculty members on existing multi-year contracts will not be affected by this decision; those contracts will be fully honored. Reductions are also being made in administrative units, and all university units have been asked to plan for a five percent budget reduction for the coming year. Further details on what that means will be available only after the state budget has been finalized.

In closing, let me thank you for all that you have done for the students we serve at VCU, and for your leadership and partnership in the hard work of forging VCU’s next chapter. We cannot do this without you. I’m confident in our ability to make the most of this transformative moment. When we do, our unique and vibrant academic enterprise will create an unmatched student experience that will attract more students and keep them enrolled to earn life-changing degrees and prepare them for a lifetime of success.


Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D.
Provost and senior vice president for academic affairs

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