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Budget Task Force Releases Initial Report

Long-term tuition hikes for undergraduate and law students, reductions in scholarships and redundancies are proposed.

Feb. 17, 2011

BY JAMES O'MALLEY

Tuition IncreaseIn an effort toward transparency, President Ronald M. Berkman sent out a report from his Budget Advisory Task Force to all faculty, students and staff on Friday, Feb. 12. The report, which is purely preliminary, outlines the tentative plans to restructure Cleveland State University’s operating budget for the fiscal years 2012-2015 and includes tuition increases, cuts to scholarships, and redundancies for each college.

The task force, which was constituted in September 2010, gathers the deans of different colleges, senior administration officials from the university budget office, the provost and the vice president of research & graduate studies. Provost Geoffrey Mearns and Tim Long of the Office of Budget & Analysis were appointed as the co-chairs of the task force.

The task force’s main purpose is to plan for ways to handle the anticipated losses in the State’s Share of Instruction (SSI), which makes up for nearly 35 percent of CSU’s total operating budget.

President Berkman had intended to meet with faculty, staff and students to discuss this issue on February 10, but he has postponed the forum until late March, after Governor John Kasich presents his Executive Budget to the Ohio State Legislature on March 15.

The predicted losses are due to both a looming state deficit of over $8 billion and the loss of $11.4 million in federal stimulus funding. This amounts to a 21.4 percent or $15.6 million reduction in SSI funding for FY2012-2015 compared to FY2011 funding. However, no official data on the loss of SSI will be available until Gov. Kasich submits his Executive Budget.

The proposal predicts a budget surplus for FY 2010-2011 of $5.3 million, but anticipates budget deficits near $15 million per fiscal year for the next four years resulting in a cumulative expected deficit of about $44.9 million. However, the task force’s report indicates that the reduction in SSI could be even more than expected amount.

“If we are able to eliminate the current operational gap-either some or all of it in the first year through permanent changes, either revenue enhancements or expense reductions, it’s not as if we have to do it each year,” said Mearns. “Ideally, what we would be able to do through this plan is to address the permanent issues as promptly as possible and then we’ll be back to a balanced budget in a relatively short period of time.”

To make up for the depleted share of SSI the report calls for yearly tuition increases of about 3 percent for undergraduate students and about 5 percent for law students until FY 2015. These percentage increases are likely to be fine-tuned and may even be higher if Gov. Kasich raises the state cap above 3.5 percent for undergraduate tuition increases. Yet, even without increases to the general and tech fees, these preliminary increase amounts would account for an increase of $916 per academic year for undergraduate students by FY2015.

The report also sorted colleges into 3 different categories or “bands” based on the “college’s contribution to the University’s strategic goals, its recent financial performance, and capacity to increase enrollment and/or tuition and fees.” These three bands are meant to help determine the severity of reduction possibilities.

Band A contains the College of Science and Health Professionals and the School of Nursing who can expect total reductions of anywhere from about 3-7 percent. Band B contains the College of Business and College of Law with expected reductions anywhere between about 5-10 percent. Finally, Band C contains the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the College of Education, College of Engineering, and College of Urban affairs with reductions between about 8-15 percent.

“Provost Mearns has communicated the college targets to the deans, and he has asked them to provide him with their college’s plan by February 22, 2011. He has also directed the deans to consult with their respective faculties and staff in developing their college’s plan,” said President Berkman in his letter.

The report also recommends reductions to the undergraduate Honors Programs scholarships, but states that all other student financial aid scholarships funded in the Operating Budget be left alone.

Despite the fact that this report is not an actual budget proposal, it is causing much discussion and concern among faculty, staff and students at CSU because of its implications for dramatic changes to come in the near future. However, Mearns is confident that changes can be made without limiting the quality of engaged learning and impact on students.

“Programs could be run more efficiently,” said Mearns. “There are programs on campus that presently have enrollment limits so if we increased enrollment limits in a particular program that’s obviously new revenue without increasing tuition."