Budget crisis calls town hall
The Administration and Finance department unveiled a set of strategic plans at a town hall meeting on Thursday that called for cost reduction and revenue enhancement in response to the looming state budget crisis.
The University’s total budget for the fiscal year 2011 was $874.4 million, according to the Department of Administration and Finance. Of the revenue coming in, 22.4 percent is either state general revenue or state funding. The administration is expecting a 15 to 25 percent cut in state general revenue.
“Even if we have a 20 percent cut in general revenue, it does not mean we have a 20 percent cut in our total budget, because the general revenue is a subset of our total budget,” Provost John Antel said.
While state general revenue only equates to 22.4 percent of the University’s revenue, 81 percent of the state funds go directly to pay for salary, wages and benefits.
UH has already cut 133 staff jobs, according to Antel. Other changes in progress include reorganizing IT, fund balance management and instituting hiring limits. There is no hiring freeze, but Antel said that UH has slowed down on hiring new faculty.
“When we lose that money, you can see right away where that impact is going to be. It’s really people we’re talking about,” Antel said. “There’s just no way to avoid having to deal with adjustments in a workforce. That’s why we’ve already made significant adjustments to the workforce here at UH.”
Antel said that the worst of the layoffs could possibly be over, but plans for administrative consolidation could lead to further layoffs.
There will also be a delay in the mission for Tier One.
“We have to be realistic. We’re going to get less money from the state. We’re probably going to have to slow down in some areas,” he said.
The greatest impacts students are facing are a reduction in financial aid and reduction in course sections programmatic offerings.
“We will try to look at any course reductions with an eye towards minimizing the impact on students. We look at historical enrollments — student demand matters. We look at scheduling to make sure courses are available at various times and on various days. We look to maintain courses that students need to graduate.”
The administration hopes to ease some of this budget strain by generating revenue from other sources.
“One the things that public universities are looking at now are their program mix. It turns out because of the demographics and the age characteristics of the population, that we actually think we can generate some more revenue with getting more involved in what’s called continuing professional education, and the classic and most important example of something we already do at Bauer very well is the MBA,” Antel said.
Another solution the administration is looking to is congestion pricing and discounts. Offering discounts to students for signing up for Friday or evening classes would help the University better utilize the facilities, Antel said.
“One of the priorities in the context of the cuts is to protect our educational mission. The students are why we are here,” he said. “We have to protect that.”