Large crowd at budget forum hears about options to close gap

03/12/2013

It was a packed standing-room only crowd of employees, interested in hearing about the University 2014 budget planning process, and the strategies and options being considered to address the challenges ahead.

The presentation, called Taking Action to Secure Our Future, included a report by Chief Financial Officer David Cummins, who explained major issues facing most public universities as state support dwindles, limits are placed on tuition hikes, and student debt is in the headlines. 

This meeting continued budget conversations that began in 2011 and intensified last spring on the critical funding gap at the University. CFO Cummins walked the audience through the 2014 budget planning process, its assumptions, along with new challenges and opportunities, including:

  • How we responded to  $14 million loss in federal stimulus funds in fiscal 2012
  • How we used one-time “fixes” to address budget gaps in fiscal 2013
  • How academic and non-academic support units responded to budget reduction goals
  • How the current 3.5% decline in enrollment contributes to a $10 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2014 
  • How anticipated faculty salaries, student scholarships, research support and continued spending contribute to the urgent need to find more efficiency in operations and increased productivity

The urgency was clearly stated by President Luis M. Proenza:  We must act now—as a campus community—to reduce our costs, increase enrollment, and find new sources of revenue. 

The budget planning process for fiscal 2014 must include new initiatives for expense reduction and revenue production to address $26 million in anticipated expenses over revenues as we take action to balance the budget.  

During the budget planning process, many options are under consideration to achieve a balanced budget and create a sustainable budget model for transformational change.  These options include:

  • Providing more focused initiatives to ensure students succeed and progress from one semester to another, through to graduation
  • Expanding alternative course offerings to enhance enrollment
  • Raising tuition & fees limited to a 2% cap set by the state
  • Raising room & board rates
  • Evaluating teaching loads to respond most efficiently to student demand
  • Combining services across departments and colleges to reduce redundancies
  • Eliminate unsustainable initiatives/programs
  • Exploring options for reducing work-hours for employees
  • Holding salaries, wages and benefits constant for at least two years

President Proenza has stated that The University of Akron remains an attractive value for students: “Our tuition and fees are competitive; our students graduate with a comparatively low level of debt; and our successful internship and co-op programs prepare our graduates for career success.  We must, however, align our resources in a sustainable budget model, so that we can be nimble, seize opportunities for growth and achieve our goals under Vision 2020. A strategic reallocation of some resources is necessary to ensure greater future success for our students and for our University. Our challenges are great, but so are the opportunities for greatness in advancing our core mission of student success.”

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