University of Toledo administration looking for ways to balance next year’s budget
The University of Toledo could be facing deep cuts as administrators look to close a projected shortfall in next year’s budget that could be as high as $36 million.
President Lloyd Jacobs said the shortfall is due to the current hard economic times and predicted increases in cost of living and inflation. He said he is assuming inflation will be about 2.5 percent next year.
“All we can do is try to reduce our cost base and increase our revenue,” he said. “I don’t believe this to be terribly different from what we do every year. We’ve been in this boat of trying to hold costs down for a decade in the state of Ohio, and this is sort of tougher. I think 2014 is going to be a difficult year, but it’s not something completely unusual.”
Jacobs said he hopes UT can bring in more revenue by increasing enrollment, but the school is also going through the hard process of looking at cuts. In addition to the work on next year’s budget, administrators say they may need to trim $13 million in the second half of this fiscal year.
“You want to remember that budgeting is not about arithmetic, it’s not about adding up columns,” Jacobs said. “It is about making difficult decisions, and we’re at a place where we have to make difficult decisions between things that are good and deciding which to prioritize.”
Jacobs said the highest budgeting priority will be on “hiring great, nationally recognized faculty” in strategic areas like the science, technology, engineering, math and medicine, or STEMM, disciplines.
“You build on your successes,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to choose a place that you have nothing and begin building from nothing — you choose a place where you’re already successful.”
Jacobs also said he’d like to see “reasonable salary increases with benefits.”
“I want as much as we can to have competitive benefits and excellent salaries,” he said. “Staff, faculty — everyone should be, to the greatest extent we possibly can, well compensated. Frankly, though, that’s been very difficult for the past few years.”
Linda Rouillard, professor of French and president-elect of the Faculty Senate, said she has been part of some early financial strategy meetings. She said she is worried the administration will not correctly prioritize budget allocations.
“We aren’t taking into account the big picture,” she said. “We’re emphasizing STEMM, and yes, STEMM is important. But this push for STEMM neglects the contributions that other disciplines make to the study of STEMM.
“How do you produce a good student in the sciences if that student can’t write well? One of the best ways to learn how to write better is to study another language. How do you produce good business students if they don’t have a good understanding of history and political science? We still do not have a holistic vision of how one discipline feeds another discipline. We talk about interdisciplinarity, but we act in manners that are discipline-specific.”
Jacobs said while STEMM is a priority, he won’t ignore the humanities.
“This whole controversy about STEMM versus non-STEMM disciplines is something that’s being played out on a national stage,” he said. But, he added, “I personally am convinced the humanities are important to equip students for a life well-lived.”
Rouillard said she believes some of the university’s financial problems come from prioritizing the wrong areas, focusing on capital projects like the Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center and the Gateway development on Dorr Street.
“We had stimulus money in both 2010 and 2011, and all of a sudden we’re going to be short $35 million,” Rouillard said. “That was money that was given to institutions and organizations through what was supposedly a difficult time, but even in that difficult time our university was engaged in some huge building projects like the Sim Center and the Dorr Street project.”
“Given that we’ve had so many budget shortfalls and enrollment decreases,” she said, “one wonders why we had to build luxury loft apartments.”
Resources should be used “to support the academic mission,” she said.
“If the UT Foundation had that kind of money to invest in Dorr Street, then perhaps it should have invested it in our students and given them more scholarships,” she said.
Jacobs said the senior leadership team is currently hashing out budget strategies, although a clearer vision won’t be realized until the beginning of January. After that, deans and faculty will be brought in to formulate budgets specific to each college.
“Almost every meeting with the senior leadership team, we talk about budgets,” he said. “I wish some days we didn’t.”
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