Hamel: University budget will account for declining student enrollment

Kathleen Moore / THE GATEPOST

Student fees will increase by $280, or 2.5%, during Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, according to Dale Hamel, executive vice president.

Hamel explained to SGA during their Feb. 11 meeting details behind the student fee increase and emphasized no University personnel would be laidoff.

“You’re probably going to see the 2.5% in the next few years, unless enrollment changes,” Hamel said.

In terms of budget ratios, the University is doing well, but enrollment is declining and the University is taking steps to manage this, according to Hamel.

“This is my 19th year here,” Hamel said. “I was 10 years at the Board of Higher Ed. and I was a CFO before that. So, I’ve seen fluctuations like this before.

“We’ve done this before – we’ve responded – we’ve actually come out of them well positioned to move forward after we go through these periods,” he added. “They come around and you respond as necessary.”

Some of the reasons for the enrollment decline include fewer high school graduates staying in-state for school, private colleges with poor finances are cutting costs, and lower community college enrollment has led to a decrease in the number of transfer students.

Hamel contextualized the budget by explaining the “key financial ratios” and how they compare to the University’s sister schools.

One is the “discount rate,” which reflects the amount of tuition and fees going back into financial aid. 

This rate will be going up in a strategic move to target financial aid and increase enrollment. 

Hamel explained it will cost extra to do this because the University decided it would not reduce current financial aid, but instead create additional financial aid.

Another change that will have to be made due to declining enrollment is the number of personnel. 

“We need to bring some control back into the number of faculty and staff that we have, more in relation to what changes we are seeing in enrollment,” Hamel said.

“That does mean reductions in positions over the next couple of years through attrition,” he said.

“Attrition means no layoffs,” Hamel added.

Around five faculty leave the University each year, partly due to retirement. Attrition means in the next couple of years, when those five people leave, the University will not refill all of their positions, but instead only fill three of those five. 

Staff levels will also “move closely up and down with enrollment,” Hamel added. “Those will be difficult decisions that will have to be made going into the next couple of years.”

“As enrollment stabilizes” the number of full-time equivalent faculty, full-time faculty, and staff will begin to stabilize as well, Hamel said. 

Following Hamel’s budgeting presentation, SGA officers began their reports.

Olivia Beverlie, student trustee, provided an update for those who had concerns with the bookstore.

Beverlie explained the bookstore is “actually able to look up your receipt on the computer in the case that you don’t have a physical copy of it, and you are able to return,” the purchase.

For those who had concerns pertaining to book rentals, “They said that 69% of our booklist for this semester is rentable and 70% was rentable in the fall,” Beverlie said.

“Additionally, with the rental options, the big issue is on professors because if they want to have rentable options for their books, they have to submit it by a certain time,” she said.

When professors submit their booklist later, the bookstore only has time to find new versions of those books, Beverlie added.

Beverlie said the “shop by the author” organization of the bookstore was “piloted from other schools.” 

Although the rock remained in the office for the duration of the meeting, the “U-Rock” award was presented to Ayanna Ferguson, publicist and recruitment coordinator.

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