Cutler Hall outside

Cutler Hall, home of the office of the president of Ohio University. File photo.

Individual academic colleges at Ohio University earlier this spring were given new budget targets to hit amid ongoing budget difficulties. In total, the Athens campus colleges will need to come up with roughly $19.3 million in budget reductions over the next four years.

The biggest cuts over that time period are set to come from the College of Arts and Sciences, about $8 million, according to mid-April meeting minutes from OU’s Budget Planning Council (BPC).

Interim OU Arts & Sciences Dean Joseph Shields also said in an email to faculty and staff earlier this spring (provided by a faculty member in that program) that it’s “unlikely” that A&S would be approving any new tenure-track faculty searches for the rest of 2019 or 2020.

“…And correspondingly there is no plan at this time to pursue a staffing process this year,” Shields said. “Going forward as we address the current budget challenge, any hiring of faculty or staff will be very restricted and limited only to urgent needs or critical investments.”

OU officials John Day, associate provost for academic budget and planning, and Katie Hensel, budget director, said during a conference call on April 24 that these budget reduction goals are “differential” for each academic college, meaning each college has varying levels of cuts to reach, and varying strategies for how to meet those goals. According to BPC materials, the OU administration is urging colleges to “re-imagine programs and reallocate funding to successful and essential programs.” The suggested plan for cuts is based on 40% revenue growth and 60% “cost efficiency” measures.

The NEWS had reported last May that OU’s budget reduction goal at the time was $8.4 million over the next few years for the academic colleges. Day confirmed during the April 24 call that that number has since more than doubled to the $19.3 million outlined above. The budget reduction (or revenue generation) goals for each academic college are listed below, according to BPC materials:

• The College of Arts and Sciences: $8 million.

• The College of Business: $2 million.

• Scripps College of Communication, $1.5 million

• Patton College of Education, $2 million.

• Russ College of Engineering, $1 million.

• College of Fine Arts, $300,000.

• College of Health Sciences and Professions, $3.5 million.

• The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, $1 million.

• OU’s Regional Campuses, $3.3 million.

Editor's note: If you'd like to delve further into the specifics of OU's budget, including what the overall budget is for these colleges, go to page 101 of OU's annual Budget Book.

OU’S HEAD ADMINISTRATORS penned a letter about OU’s budget difficulties earlier this spring, on March 24. President Duane Nellis, Provost Chaden Djalali and VP for Finance Deborah Shaffer wrote that the university is attempting to map a path toward a “sustainable” financial future.

“Ohio University is not alone; colleges and universities across the nation are struggling with funding challenges, including the decreasing enrollments in residential programs, affordability issues, rising student debt, and competition from for-profit and other alternatives to four-year universities,” they wrote. “There is a growing need for institutions of higher learning to identify alternative revenue sources and to implement cost-saving measures to create a sustainable financial future.”

In Ohio in particular, public colleges are fighting to secure a dwindling number of in-state high-school graduates, with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education reporting in 2016 that Ohio is expected to have 11 percent fewer high-school students graduating each year by 2031 (compared to 2016 numbers).

Meanwhile, OU’s administrative units are continuing to work through $8.4 million in budget reductions that were set several years ago.

Most of OU’s administrative offices took a $4.8 million cut in 2018, along with another $1.5 million cut expected this year, and another $2.15 million cut in Fiscal Year 2020, The NEWS previously reported. 

The university confirmed last year that it had laid off four people in its Finance and Administration division and “abolished” 12 total positions in those departments (eight of those jobs were unoccupied at the time).

Late in April 2017, OU similarly announced it had cut 13 positions in the Finance and Administration departments, eight of which were vacant positions, meaning five people were laid off. 

Day said that no further administrative layoffs have occurred this year.

OU’s auxiliary departments – athletics, culinary and housing – are also set to make some reductions: About $2.5 million in FY18; $1.5 million in FY19; and almost $700,000 in FY2020. Athletics is only contributing about $600,000 in reductions across those three years.

OU’s Faculty Senate is set to meet tonight (Monday), and a sense-of-the-senate resolution is set to be read for the second time about the erosion of tenure and faculty positions amid a time of budgetary constraints. That resolution expresses concerns about these budget issues “accelerating the erosion of tenure at Ohio University through attrition of tenure-track faculty,” and asks the university to continue hiring tenure-track faculty on “variable workloads” to protect the dual research and teaching mission at the university.

“…Cuts in recent years have continued to flatline or even decrease the number of tenure-track faculty in most departments, even though President Nellis and EVP & Provost Djalali have publicly stated their desire to raise the research profile of Ohio University,” the resolution reads.

 

AS MENTIONED BEFORE, each OU academic college is tackling the problem in its own way. Other efforts planned by the College of Arts and Sciences include “substantial reductions” in the “themes” course budgets for the next fiscal year, with those courses likely being eliminated after that fiscal year. That will impact themed groups of classes such as Law, Justice & Culture; Technology & Society; Wealth & Poverty; and Food & Society, which allowed students to obtain certificates focused on specific issues related to the intersections of different disciplines.

“The Themes have provided valuable opportunities for our students and faculty to engage with significant, interdisciplinary topics,” Interim Arts & Sciences Dean Shields wrote in his early spring email to faculty and staff. “My hope is that despite the loss of funding, these collaborative efforts can be maintained at some level in the future in accord with faculty and student interests.”

Meanwhile, at the Scripps College of Communication, Dean Scott Titsworth gathered a large group of faculty and staff together several weeks ago in a room in the RTV building to discuss ways that the college can generate more revenue to meet the ongoing budget-cut goals. He presented a worksheet to the staff with a description of current efforts to bring new classes and programs to the college, set to teach around topics such as crisis communication and social media. The staff and instructors present then puzzled out other potential new courses and themes to attract new students to the college.

“The critical thing not just for our college but the entire university is to understand what the real opportunities for revenue are,” Titsworth said. “That’s going to mean, inevitably, ways to get new types of students to the university. That (is the) concept of diversifying our revenue streams… What Ohio University has been great at for over 200 years is a certain type of revenue stream built on our residential students, and that’s a number that we know is going to decline.”

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