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Financial forum addresses the budgetary concerns of students

BY Kelsey Mercurio

April 7, 2011

The Student Government Association (SGA) held a one hour question and answer session about the government budget for the students to ask any concerns they may have about their future at Cleveland State. SGA invited Provost Geoffrey Mearns; Corinne Webb, the interim vice president of enrollment and student affairs; and Tim Long, the director of budget and financial analysis.

Long started off the hour long questionnaire by discussing the figures of the government budget. Every year the state tax dollars (SSI) in Ohio gives two billion dollars for higher education. For the fiscal year of 2012 (FY 12), the government is only giving 1.7 billion for higher education. Every school in Ohio has a different amount of money that was cut, but for Cleveland State the loss of federal stimulus is putting the budget from 70 million to 60 million.

With the budget gap looming large on the students’ minds the first thing discussed was the tuition hike. Governor Kasich has kept the tuition cap at 3.5 percent, which is what it was always at. As for the Graduate level and Law professionals, their tuition will increase because they have no cap on tuition. The university doesn’t know exactly how much the tuition will increase, but hopes to make the information available by May.

“The university is in the process of looking over what those increases will be,” Long said. “Information will be available on what it might be early to mid May.”

The graduate level tuition will increase, but the different schools will have different increases. How much a school’s tuition will increase will be due to how high the demand is in that particular school. Each program had a particular percent target which was higher for more demanding programs. The highest demand of target, which will also affect the tuition increase is Education, English and CLASS. The lowest is Nursing, Law, Urban, and Business.

The university is in the budget building phase which is a phase where they come up with a budget balance to run the university in FY 12. Mearns and Long proposed the budget balance which will hopefully be finished this month between the finalization of the tuition increase and the dean’s strategies for each school.

“I was wondering if the students have to worry about larger class sizes in the upcoming semester, due to the reductions happening on campus?” a student asked.

Vice President Webb took over this question by explaining how important it was for students to stay on track and get academic advisement.

Webb urges students to start enrolling now for fall semester. Students need to meet with academic advisors and not wait until August to enroll in classes because it may be too late to get into the higher demanding courses. Also, if students start enrolling now Provost Mearns and Webb can see which classes are in high demand, which would let them know which courses may need another added.

“It is very important for students to stay on track for graduation,” Webb said. “I urge students to select classes for fall and know what courses you need to take so you have a spot.”

Webb also talked about students being able to register for classes for both semesters. This is called multi-tem which allows students to not only register for fall classes but also spring. This is just another way for students to stay on track to graduate. Multi-term registration is still being developed.

Another big subject was about financial aid and if it would still be offered. “Will students expect to see financial aid stay the same, decrease or increase in the coming year?” a student asked

The Pell Grant which includes financial aid like the Smart Grant, and Academic Competitive Grant will not be available come fall. This is due to the US congress not having enough funds for such grants.

If students need financial help Webb advises them to apply for FASFA and other financial aids through Cleveland State. Even though the Pell Grants will not be available through the congress, the university is still hosting the grant which students can be eligible for.

“We urge students to go onto CampusNet and sign up for assistance,” Webb said.
The university has 13-14 million dollars for scholarships which will always be available for eligible students. When the tuition increases that pot of money will also increase.
“What we give out stays base with whatever the increase is,” Long said.

Student advising is also a concern for most students, which will not be affected at all.
“We are seeing if we can do better and improve it,” Mearns said. “Academic advising is vital to retain those students so it will stay the same.”

Another question asked was in regard to Governor Kasich’s proposal of earning a bachelor’s degree in three years.

“Has the university thought about the possibility of a three year bachelors degree Kasich proposed?” a student wondered.

Generally what he is proposing is that ambitious and well prepared students can graduate in three years, but to make it without any AP or summer school will be a challenge, Mearns explained. It will be hard for any school to be accredited if they do this.

“We don’t know exactly what he means yet,” Mearns said. “Schools have certain accreditation and if we don’t meet that we will not be accredited like other schools.”
Another concern for many students is the effect this may have on the honors program.
“How will some of reduction budgets affect the students and the university’s ability to be apart of the honors program?” a student asked.

The honors program spends a lot of money on honors scholarships. For new students and transfer students the amount of people accepted into the program will be reduced slightly. For the students that are already in the program they will stay,Mearns explained.

“We gave a modest amount of money the next fiscal year.” Mearns said
A big issue was the expanding campus and if that would be negatively affected.
“Will the cuts in higher education put a hold on the university’s plan to build the campus?” a student asked.

Currently there is no capital money coming in for the fiscal year. In the year 13-14 the state may give out capital money which will help the growing campus plan keep going. There are some projects that will still be done, especially safety related ones, Long explained.

“The state does not have resources at this particular time to pass and borrow money for the fiscal year 11-12,” Long said. “We hope something will pass in the year 13-14.”
As for the private development happening, they will still be building because they do not rely on funding from the state capital.

“Private development will be going ahead basically not on the universities dime,” Long said.

Provost Mearns explained his plan for appointing a Vice Provost for academic planning. The Vice Provost will have a more integrated approach for academic technology, Mearns explained. They want to develop a strategic approach to educational technology, which is becoming more popular amoung students.

“Last year e-learning was over 9 percent of student credit hours,” Mearns said. “This year it is up to 11-12 percent of credit hours.”

One of the last quesions that was raised by a student in the audience was the development of a football team in the future. The future of football at Cleveland State is not happening anytime soon.

“We will not be developing intercollegiate football in the near future,” Mearns said. “Can’t say it’s impossible, but it’s very unlikely. It is a costly endeavor and student fees alone would not support it and there are academic needs right now.”

At the end of the discussion all three staff members had a final say about how the univerity will overcome the government’s budget.

“There is nothing more important to this university than support you getting a degree and job,” Webb said.

“Our students know how to work and juggle schedules and uncertainties,” Long said. “We as administrators basically have to do the same with resources and uncertainties to continue to provide education services that we have done.”

“This is a manageable challenge and it is our goal, as the President has said, to ensure the university is stronger and more vibrant than it was coming in,” Mearns said. “We are confident we will be stronger and more vibrant in the end.”

If students have any more concerns or questions about the government budget that recently came out they can visit the TASK force Web Site which has all the written statements from the beginning.