The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is looking to half its structural deficit of $5 million in another round of budget cuts.
In the current fiscal year, the university has already reduced its budget by $2 million, and an additional $2.5 million reduction is planned for July 2018.
Due in March, the changes to the budget will come from Academic, Business and Student Affairs.
Kristen Hendrickson, vice chancellor for business affairs, said, “The conversations are much more difficult now because we just don’t have as many options anymore to look at cutting costs without really saying we’re going to stop doing something.”
There are three key factors driving this deficit. Foremost is state support, which has declined by $14.6 million. Due to declining enrollment, fiscal year 2018 is projected to bring in $10 million less in tuition revenue than fiscal year 2013 when enrollment was 9,400 students. The tuition freeze, started in fiscal year 2013, has resulted in $7 million less in revenue.
“We’ve gotten pretty good at downsizing. What we need to do, I think, is something more fundamental. We need to permanently adjust to the reality of our financial situation rather than hoping funding gets restored in some way,” Greg Summers, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said.
Hendrickson mentioned that to avoid lay-offs, her department would try to adapt and avoid rehiring when faculty retire.
“We cannot be the same kind of comprehensive university that we’ve been historically, people tend to think of this university as trying to offer as broad a program array as we possibly can, so we want to serve every possible student need. And I don’t think that’s realistic in the financial climate that we’re in,” Summers said. “I think we have to pick what our strengths are and be really committed to serving those strengths well and to providing adequate resources. But that also means that we have to let go of the things that we can’t be strong in that we just don’t have enough money to support. And that’s really difficult for people to do. People just don’t want to let go of that vision of the university.”
The College of Letters and Science is facing perhaps the biggest challenge among the university’s academic units, since its programs have collectively experienced the largest enrollment declines. However, the College of Fine Arts and Communication is facing a similar challenge as it has experienced declining enrollment in recent years as well.
Hendrickson emphasized the university can’t keep cutting the budget all the time, at some point it needs to make strategic investments.
In the colleges, these changes include adding new degrees like aquaculture, adding graduate offerings like a doctorate in physical therapy and expanding minors, like graphic design, into majors.
“Providing a quality education for our students, I think that’s first and foremost,” Hendrickson said.
The university’s website, www.uwsp.edu/forkintheroad/ contains the most up to date information on budget cuts.
Olivia De Valk