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Cleveland State Budget Update:

President Berkman to hold an open forum on April 29 to discuss proposed budget

April 21, 2011

By James O'Malley

Now that Cleveland State University has the approximate allocation of about $62 million in SSI for fiscal year 2012, the impact of the loss is becoming much clearer. President Berkman announced through an email on April 15, that he will be holding an open forum on April 29, to discuss the budget presentation that will be made to the Board of Trustees on Monday, May 2.

The Plain Dealer recently reported that only 29 percent of first-time, full-time freshman graduated within six years. The article also mentioned that Ohio Board of Regents (OBOR) ranks CSU as 11th of the 13 public universities in terms of graduation rates and retention.

“This metric will have a slight adverse effect on future SSI allocations, because this statistic is being incorporated into the funding formula,” said Provost Geoffrey Mearns. The university hopes to not only improve graduation rates, but also encourage OBOR to include metrics that highlight the university’s successes. However, the main problem the university faces to improve these rates remains the amount of students who transfer out of CSU.

The anticipated allotment of SSI at about $62 million means that the university is looking at an $11 million drop from FY 2011. Also, CSU will not receive a requested $12 million that would have been allocated to the capital budget for critical building maintenance. However, President Berkman, among others, has mentioned the university’s reserves as a possible fallback.

“We may need to, as a fall back, draw down some of the reserves as a bridge from the current fiscal year into fiscal year 2013,” said Provost Mearns. CSU’s unrestricted reserves are somewhere around $32 million and these funds could also be used for some of the aforementioned critical building maintenance should the need arise.

The president also included in his email that there would be an $8 per credit hour increase to the general fee to cover operating and construction costs for the Student Center and Recreation Center. The $8 increase per credit hour will cost a full time student about an extra $100 per semester. This $8 is in addition to the $14 already included in tuition for these construction costs and would, along with additional fees; bring the total general fee to about $55 per credit hour.

“This $8 fee is the last phase of a series of phases that started in 2005, and started at $2 a credit hour, then went to $8, then went to $14” said Tim Long, director of the Office of Budget and Financial Analysis. “We were given authority to implement that [$8 fee] two years ago, but we deferred that and now we’re at a point in time where we need to put that fee on.”

In February, the president’s Budget Advisory Task Force (BATF) released a report that projected SSI losses around $21 million and asked colleges to cut their budgets anywhere from 3 to 15 percent. Deans were asked to submit proposals to Provost Mearns by the end of February. However, since that time the CSU’s operating budget has become much clearer and some former cost cutting initiatives may no longer be needed.
Mearns has met with the dean of these colleges to fine tune their proposals into an agreeable plan to be implemented within the broader budget proposal. However, these plans have and will likely continue to be kept confidential due to the sensitive nature of their contents until the budget is released.

“I anticipate that there will be layoffs of certain staff in certain areas,” said Provost Mearns. “It is our hope that those layoffs will not affect student services.”
However, the loss of staff may go on to affect students as it is planned as a cost saving measure to selectively fill vacancies. Not comfortable with the term ‘hiring freeze’, Provost Mearns prefers ‘strategic hiring’.

“While there’s not a hiring freeze there’s a very high standard that a department or unit has to overcome before they can attain our approval,” said Provost Mearns. “We don’t want to call it a freeze because we still want to hire positions that are vital or will enhance the strategic initiatives here at CSU.”

After presenting the budget to students and the board, the president along with members of the office of budget and finance and the BATF will deliberate before making a formal presentation to the Board’s Financial Affairs Committee on May 17. The board will be asked to approve the budget on its June 28th meeting.