With undergrad enrollment at its lowest since 2006, Dr. King said the school “can no longer afford to make a two or three percent broad stroke budget cut” to compensate.
Enrollment decreases have left the budget for the 2012-2013 school year about 1.4 million dollars short. King says with the budget already tight, administration is having to be much more strategic about how to lower costs.
The three ways King says the university is responding to low enrollment is by focusing on increasing enrollment, maintaining retention, and examining expenses.
King emphasized the desire of administration to not cut anything that adds to the student experience.
“As we address the problem of the budget we will do so while also protecting marketing and admissions…and while also protecting the student experience,” he said, “which means we have to make deeper decisions in other areas.”
Some of those deeper decisions have been staff cuts. Weaver Childhood Development Center will be closing after this academic year. With it 8 positions will be eliminated. King said the program was an expense that was not a necessity to the student experience.
“We have had to look at positions, and at programs that we can or can’t maintain,” said King, “in these discussions we get to the question of people, and what do we need to consider here because this decision will affect people.”
Weaver is an example of a program shut down this year, that will not affect the budget until next year. Another example of conservation King mentioned is an offer to faculty and staff for early retirement.
Several departments are affected by faculty or staff leaving and not being replaced, or taking early retirement and not being replaced.
One of these departments is Student Development. Chris Abrams, Director of Student Development, said Sandy Johnson, former Director of Orientation, retired at the end of last year and was not replaced this year.
Another change Student Development is making according to Abrams is the reduction of one residence hall in the fall of 2013, along with the elimination of one Residence Director position and several Residence Assistance positions. They have not yet decided on who will be let go, or which hall will be vacated.
The I.T. department has lost two people and replaced neither, along with the Physical Plant. Jim Palone, director of the Physical Plant, said they are cutting back in every way possible as well, down to turning off lights and vending machines when they are not in use.
Another typical example of cutbacks being made is the theater program. They are reusing and borrowing more set pieces, which they have done since their creation.
In order to raise enrollment the art department will begin offering beginner-level classes in each media that will be opened to the student body as general education options in the fall.
The portion of the university’s budget for student groups, such as Student Senate and intramurals, changes yearly based on student enrollment and is therefore low this year.
Outsourcing of businesses on campus is also a response to low budget issues. The bookstore has been outsourced to Tree of Life.
Joyce Byler, wellness director said “we have initiated an alumni fee starting in January but that is due to the fact that we are experiencing an increase in volume.”
Byler said the fee will be 120 dollars annually to help with the cost of equipment maintenance and replacement. “We have not allowed budget cuts to influence the student experience,” she said.
Suzy Thomas, director of university relations said “there is an open attitude about being good stewards.”
She said administration had three meetings with faculty and staff to brainstorm possible creative ways to save money. She also mentioned a tuition remission policy change among the list of things the university is planning to enforce to save money.
Thomas said this is something colleges and universities across the board are struggling with. “We have to be stronger in our message, the priority is maintaining our mission,” she said.
She emphasized that the school will not change it’s values in order to appease to more potential students. “historically when that has happened enrollment went down, it wouldn’t make any sense to be like everyone else,” said Thomas.
Not all departments responded to The Aviso’s requests for interviews, although the majority did. Two departments King was adamant would not be decreased but increased, was enrollment and admissions.
*An earlier version of this story did not include Student Development’s R.D. cut.