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One dollar forward two dollars back

Humboldt State University is looking to stop a tradition of spending more than we make.

Source: 2017-2018 HSU Budget

By | Curran C. Daly

Humboldt State has spent more money that it has made in each of the last seven years. This tradition of deficit spending has led to the implementation of a three-step process to address the deficit and reinvest in the university.

The university is currently in the early stages of planning Phase Two of the budget re-organization. Where Phase One looked to make changes that could be implemented quickly, Phase Two is tasked with making more systemic changes. A January letter from President Rossbacher’s cabinet to the University Resource and Planning Committee outlined the different aspects of the budget reduction plan.

“To start, we are focused on Phases One and Two to reduce the University’s expenditures by 5 percent to address the deficit,” said the letter. “If any funds remain, begin strategic reinvestment.”

Instead of making horizontal cuts, in which every department gets cut 4-5 percent, the Provost’s office is looking at making vertical cuts in which some departments take larger cuts than others. How large a cut a department will be asked to make depends on potential cuts identified within departmental budgets.

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“We are looking at a 5 percent efficiency,” said Provost Alexander Enyedi. “But we told the colleges to look at 2 percent.”

The effort to balance Humboldt’s budget is not as simple as increasing enrollment. Even when Humboldt’s enrollment reached its peak in the 2015-2016 academic year, the school still overspent its revenue by $700,000. Humboldt State currently spends more money per full-time equivalent students than any other similarly sized campus in the California State University system. What reached $15,810 per student in the financial year of 2015-2016 is expected to reach $17,904 for the 2017-2018 financial year. This has created an expected deficit of $1,600,000 for the 2017-2018 Academic year.

Phase Two is now tasked with getting Humboldt State’s budget to a point where the revenue exceeds the expenditures for the first time in nearly a decade. Still early in the planning stages, Dean for the College of Professional Studies Manohar Singh is still not able to say exactly what cuts to expect.

“We have not identified any specific things because we are right in the beginning of that process,” said Singh. “We are looking at photocopying for example, we are looking at how many papers we print, we are looking at how many telephone lines are in the college, so maybe there are some sources of savings there.”

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The largest component of Humboldt State’s expenditures is spent on salaries and wages. What comes out to $67,000,000 takes up 50 percent of Humboldt’s expenditures for the 2017-2018 year. Salaries and wages take up a large part of the budget. There is a possibility that cuts could impact faculty positions.

“We are also very conscientiously looking at every individual as a human being, so it’s not like we are going to go out and say ‘alright one, two, three, four are out,’” said Singh. “It is going to be a very, very sincere, conscientious effort to respect everybody.”

One way the school is currently saving money is the elimination of vacant positions. This has lead to the elimination of the position of Dean of Research and has cut down on the number of available custodial positions on campus.

The university is focused on making budget changes that will lead to a more efficient budget that does not negatively affect student experiences on campus.

“What we want to do, is we don’t want to impact students,” said Provost Enyedi.

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