Enrollment numbers and revenue projections might be higher than initially predicted.
Earlier projections for fiscal year 2015 saw an $18 million funding deficit, resulting from declines in enrollment.
Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Barrie Wilkes issued an update earlier this month, which described higher enrollment and smaller funding reductions.
Students enrolled in 9,000 more credit hours than predicted, adding $3 million in revenue from tuition. This revenue will be used to offset the deficit, Wilkes said, and will allow CMU’s academic colleges to plan for smaller reductions.
“Anytime you build a budget, you use a bunch of estimates,” Wilkes said. “It’s not a precise science. We don’t want to build a budget that is too optimistic.”
According to Wilkes, the colleges were asked to prepare separate plans for a three, six and nine percent declines in funding. Now the colleges might only need two plans, at two and four percent reductions.
“It’s just a plan, in case. Right now we’re not planning for any reductions,” Wilkes said. “We have made the cuts to already address any reductions. The budget is balanced.”
Gov. Rick Snyder will propose a budget in February, Wilkes said. He also expected enrollment numbers to be more accurate as next semester begins.
“As we go further into spring, we’ll have a better idea of enrollment,” Wilkes said. “Students will be more solidified in their commitment.”
Also included in the update, Wilkes wrote about a proposed retirement incentive plan opposed by the Budget Priorities Committee, which was formed in the spring. Made up of faculty, administrators and students, the committee analyzed the incentive program and found it too ambiguous to endorse.
“There were too many uncertain outcomes,” Wilkes said of the proposed plan which would offer incentives for teachers looking to retire early, and offset some expenses. “You might find that everyone in the shop wants to retire. They can’t all leave.”
Wilkes cited the high expense of replacing retirees. Many positions may need to be replaced, he said.
“If you offer a program, its hard to determine if you’d have to hire replacements,” said Marcia Taylor, an English instructor on the committee. “We were asked to review the general proposal as it might relate to budget reductions. We cannot recommend it as this time.
“There are some budget challenges, and until we know more about these challenges we don’t know if it fits.”
Vice Provost of Academic Administration Ray Christie, who is also on the BPC, said more students have arrived at CMU than initially expected. He said projections are usually within 0.4 percent of the actual numbers.
“The committee has learned that the revised enrollment projections were lower than the enrollment that materialized this fall,” Christie said. “Institutional research tries hard to come up with a projection that is accurate.”
Christie explained the newly-formed committee intends, as part of shared governance, to bring experts on campus together to discuss issues of enrollment, financial aid, capital requests and tuition.
“We will be soliciting questions from community members,” Taylor said. “We hope the main benefit will be to facilitate communication in all directions and make the budget more transparent. It is a multi-layered group; all constituents are heard.”
Christie describes the BPC’s role as purely advisory, and it make no actual decisions on proposals.
“Our role is to review the current-year budget, and advise for next year’s budget,” he said. “We get to see some of the components that go into that and weigh in.”
A public forum to discuss budgeting issues is planned for 3:30-5 p.m. Jan. 22 in the Park Library Auditorium. Three to four forums will be held during the spring semester, Christie said.
“We’re not under the office of finance,” Taylor said. “We’re an independent committee. The purpose is to promote communication across campus.”