Following the projected $18 million budget deficit, stemming from a projected 5-7 percent decrease in on-campus undergraduate enrollment – the university is tightening the purse strings on two of CMU’s largest colleges and cutting 32 faculty members, among other cost-saving measures.
This is the first story in a series that will outline the impacts of low enrollment and the budget deficit on each of CMU’s colleges.
CHSBS sees largest percentage of budget deficit
Central Michigan University’s College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences is predicting a $1.9-million deficit in funding this year as enrollment continues to decline, especially among incoming freshmen.
The CHSBS hosts the majority of introductory classes for freshmen, including introductory English and civics classes. According to Dean Pamela Gates, the college is seeing 2,500 less credit hours enrolled this year but still stands as the highest revenue-bringing college at CMU.
She said this year, CHSBS has already brought in $55,223,649 in revenue from the second Summer semester and the Fall. Last year, the college totaled $85,886,208 in revenue.
“The reality is we have fewer freshmen,” Gates said. “The expenses remain the same, but the revenue dropped significantly.”
Gates said when enrollment was higher during the past three years, there were 75 to 77 sections of English 101, required for most first-year students. This year, there are only 45.
“That is shocking,” she said of the section decline. “It shows very clearly that we don’t have as many freshmen. We’ve always had the number of freshmen that we wanted.”
Following the enrollment and revenue drops, Gates said she had to cut 32 fixed-term faculty positions. The annually-evaluated contracts for those positions were simply not renewed.
Gates said she still has more than 200 instructors at CHSBS, along with 140 graduate student assistants whose ranks have not been reduced.
“I’ve never had to cut those positions before,” Gates said of fixed-term positions. “It’s in their contracts, but it still hurts. It’s something I lose sleep over. It’s a bit of a culture shock, but we are not lowering our standards (for new students).”
College of Communications and Fine Arts also takes cuts
The College of Communications and Fine Arts is also in the red, with a predicted budget deficit for this year to the tune of $1.2 million.
“Most departments have savings, which are used to offset some of the effects on cuts,” CCFA Dean Salma Ghanem said.
According to Ghanem, all of the college’s departments have made cuts to help cut the deficit, with the largest being made to the supplies and equipment budget, along with other, smaller cuts to travel expenses.
Although the decrease in enrollment inevitably causes a decrease in revenue, Ghanem said students will remain unaffected by any cuts.
“I don’t think students feel it, and we make sure of that,” Ghanem said. “The institution is lean to begin with. Adjusting to a decrease in money is very common, for not only CMU, but for universities across the map.”
At this point, no vacant positions have been left unfilled due to budget cuts within the CCFA.
Coping with the loss
In an attempt to drive enrollment numbers back up, Gates has encouraged the remaining instructors to reach out to potential students and draw them to CMU.
“Faculty have a new kind of energy,” she said. “They know they can bring in new students. We’re going to continue to entice them to come.”
Ghanem stressed the importance of recruitment, citing the importance of thinking out-of-the-box on how to recruit more students in the future. She said her departments are focusing on recruitment by holding summer programs and pushing recruitment in high schools, among other steps.
She said current students are safe from the negative impact of budget cuts. Gates said students can expect smaller classes and more direct attention from teachers.
In the meantime, Gates is focused on growing more successful programs at CHSBS, like neuroscience and cultural competency programs.
“We’ll land on the right size,” she said. “But getting there is painful. You still need those teachers in front of students.”
The administration’s take
Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services David Burdette said since tuition provides 75 percent of CMU’s operating budget, budget cuts must occur.
“This year, there are fewer students,” he said. “That means fewer tuition dollars, so we must trim expenses. CHSBS has seen the biggest reductions. The freshmen won’t be there this year.”
Burdette estimated there are 500 fewer freshmen this year. CMU’s total revenue has dropped more than $1 million from $441,867,916 during the 2012-13 year to $440,718,041 for 2013-14.
“English, in particular, has fewer sections,” Burdette said. “There are fewer students, and that kind of affects everybody. (CMU’s) administration is revamping how they recruit and retain enrollment.”
Burdette said faculty members have become “very interested” in how to address enrollment shortfalls. Teachers have been making phone calls to prospective students, and deans are being more careful in hiring.
“If a dean decides the best way to save money is to leave a position vacant, they’re certainly free to do it,” Burdette said. “They are scrutinizing everything we do. We are being very critical of hiring.”
Vice Provost of Academic Administration Ray Christie said funding for CMU’s nine academic colleges is tied directly to their respective enrollment. Decision-making about fund allocations are left to the deans of the colleges.
“It works best at the department level,” Christie said. “One of the things I pride CMU with is that people are good stewards of the resources they have. It’s a reality that there will be some things people are unable to do this year.”