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2020 Financial Update

Northwestern is in stronger financial health than it has been in some time.”

Dear Northwestern Community Members,

It’s our privilege to welcome you to the winter quarter — and a new decade — at Northwestern University. Once again, we would like to use the start of the new year as an occasion to update you about the state of our finances and plans for future investments. 

Northwestern is in stronger financial health than it has been in some time, having beaten its planned budget for the 2019 fiscal year by $66.5 million, leaving us with a small but important budget surplus.

After two previous years of budget shortfalls, the credit for this turnaround goes broadly to our University community, which has worked together to seek focused growth and efficiency in daily operations while continuing to support our core mission and priorities.

The University’s academic and fiscal fundamentals are sound. An unprecedented period of growth in recent years has cemented our status as a Top 10 institution with an endowment just under $11 billion. The We Will fundraising campaign, which some time ago passed its original $3.75 billion goal, is on pace to top $5 billion well before it concludes at the end of this calendar year, thanks to more than 160,000 generous donors.

A challenge we always face is to balance short-term interests with the commitment our University has made to serve future generations as capably as this one. Discipline remains essential, as our revenue streams and endowment are subject to shifts in the economy. Thus, we have asked campus leaders to continue with prudence in their Fiscal Year 2021 resource planning, guided as always by our distinctive University priorities

As we develop goals for FY21, we believe we will be in a position to:

  • expand the compensation pool for our faculty and staff to ensure that the University can continue to attract and retain the world’s best talent;
  • enhance support for our physical and technological infrastructure, especially in information technology and deferred maintenance of our facilities;
  • continue to invest in safety and security improvements on all our campuses;
  • carry out an initiative that can open new pathways to success for faculty at all levels, while increasing faculty diversity broadly; and
  • elevate the student experience, particularly for first-generation, low-income, marginalized and underrepresented minority students.

We are also committed to maintaining Northwestern’s leadership position among American universities in addressing our impact on the environment, by continuing to integrate sustainability into our campus operations and culture. Our community made considerable progress in the previous decade to reduce our carbon footprint, increase recycling, add solar installations, move toward electric fleets for our Facilities teams, and gain LEED certification for new buildings. We are developing an even more ambitious agenda for the coming years, to ensure that sustainability drives our operations and educational and community-service efforts. We expect to share with you an updated plan later in the year.

We look forward to welcoming new leaders to our community this year. Just this week, we welcomed Manuel Cuevas-Trisán as our new Vice President for Human Resources. He comes to us from Motorola Solutions, where he shaped services for 16,000 employees around the world. He brings to our campuses a firm commitment to partnering with staff and faculty to improve every aspect of our operating environment, with a focus on career development, talent management and the improvement of work processes.

Searches are progressing for deans of the School of Communication and Northwestern University in Qatar, the vice president for student affairs and the vice president for research.

We thank you for the role you have played in bringing Northwestern to this point, and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside you and to raise our sights together in these early days of this new decade. Indeed, as we are midway through a historic commemoration of 150 Years of Women at Northwestern, we believe this is an opportune moment to commit ourselves anew to equipping every member of our community to be a catalyst for change in our world. In this manner we can be the best possible stewards of a premier institution with a global, inclusive and enduring mission.