University Financial Outlook

June 23, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to share a brief update regarding the University’s financial circumstances and outlook. Although considerable time remains before we officially close the books on the current fiscal year, we are encouraged by recent information, including the forecasts we have reviewed from our schools, institutes, and administrative departments. Tremendous discipline has been exhibited by our University community, rallying to buffer the institution’s massive operating and financial challenges caused by the pandemic. As a result, expense savings are tracking better than originally anticipated.

We are extremely grateful for this collective effort, which will allow us to recalibrate recent austerity measures. We are thankful too for generous support from our donors and alumni in the last fifteen months, and for federal government assistance that responds to the financial challenges from COVID-19 that have faced medical providers, institutions of higher education, students, and their families.

We look with both caution and optimism to the academic year ahead. As you have heard from President Bollinger, the University will return to close to normal conditions in the fall. To be sure, we will not yet have escaped the financial effects from COVID-19 in the coming period, including uncommon spending to keep the campus safe. But we are confident that we can pace this transitional moment in a financially manageable manner. Non-personnel spending plans have been kept modest for the coming year, and, where feasible, spending in administrative areas will continue to be reduced.

These steps and this outlook, coupled with reasonable ramp-up plans to return to normal operations, offer room for some significant adjustments. While hiring plans at the school and unit levels will continue to be reviewed and monitored, the hiring freeze operationalized over the past fifteen months is now lifted. A modest salary pool is in effect for the coming year, after a year in which remuneration has been frozen. And we are pleased to share the decision, just taken, to return to regular retirement contributions by the University for officers as of August 1, 2021.

After a long season marked by difficult decisions and personal sacrifice, we are pleased to ease necessary operating and financial constraints, with a sense of relief and also gratitude for your collegiality, support for each other, and your commitment to our institution and its values. Thank you for all you have done to craft a stronger Columbia.

With summer wishes,

Ira Katznelson
Interim Provost
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History


Anne Sullivan
Executive Vice President for Finance and Information Technology