Common Staff Writer
Shawnee State University (SSU) President Dr. Rita Rice Morris said in her weekly ‘Friday Letter’ to employees, in response to a set of circumstances that have dramatically altered the university’s resources and operations, she is recommending the universities budget be cut by 7.3 percent or $4 million dollars.
“This afternoon (Friday) I am sending to the Board of Trustees for approval the FY14 Budget for the University’s General Fund. This budget is an aggressive response to a set of circumstances that have dramatically altered the university’s resources and operations,” Morris said. “Three factors have put intense pressure upon our university resources, the shift in the state funding formula to a focus upon course completion and timely graduation rates and resulting funding cuts effective this fiscal year; A change in the role our reserves play in providing our economic stability in challenging economic times; and a significant impact from a drop in enrollment this semester following a decline last year.”
On the first day of classes SSU reported having 4,300 students enrolled, representing a 6.4 percent decrease in overall enrollment.
Morris said she was unable to complete an annual budget when it’s typically presented to the SSU Board of Trustees because of an unknown in state budget.
“With the completion of the State budget in late June, which included the new funding formula, I chose to not give the Board an FY14 budget in July as it was clear enrollment was not going to meet our planning expectations,” Morris said.
She said in May the trustees passed a continuing resolution and in July funding was allocated to the various departments, based on Fiscal Year 2013 funding. “What was not clear at that time was the dramatic nature of our enrollment decline and we are still working to understand the reasons for the decline and identify methods to respond,” Morris said.
She said this news comes on the reductions that were made to the universities budget in 2013.
“Ultimately we started this instructional year with a need to make permanent all of the $1,000,000 in “take backs” in FY13, an $823,000 decrease in state funding related to our retention and graduation rates, the loss of an anticipated $500,000 in the state budget to assist us in transitioning to the new funding formula, and $2,300,000 in lost tuition revenue because of our fall semester enrollment decline. In addition, we set a goal of a $1,500,000 reduction in our reliance on reserves.”
Morris said in the letter to SSU employees, “our most important guiding principles as we responded to the circumstances created by the enrollment decline were to protect our core mission and its quality, execute budgets that keep the institution fiscally viable, maximize resources to support student success, minimize the impact upon our students’ ‘time to graduation,’ invest in building instructional capacity, and minimize impacts upon our current employees,” Morris said. “Some of the changes in the FY14 budget are temporary. In the FY15 budget we will need to make them permanent, respond to any changes in enrollment and state funding, and eliminate the final portion of the budget that relies upon reserves. This means that the reductions in FY14 will be followed by further reductions in FY15 and we will also need to plan for a known
$1 million reduction in funding by the State in FY16. While these numbers are large, they are not unmanageable. However, dealing with them requires many difficult decisions.”
In an effort to help understand the changes that will be occurring sessions have been set up, to allow SSU employees to ask questions and express any concerns they may have.
The closing portion of her letter Morris wrote, “in the past this university community has responded well to many challenges. I am proud of our collective response to the recession as we continue to serve our mission to our students and our community. We are at our best when we work together and I look forward to working and talking with each of you as we respond to this new set of challenges.”
The SSU Board of Trustees are expected to vote on the measure at their meeting on Friday, September 13.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-1151, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.