Humboldt State University Budget Director Amber Blakeslee in the HSU library on Sept. 20. Blakeslee hopes budget cuts will have no significant impact on students. | Photo by James Wilde

HSU’s Budgetary Future

Humboldt State's Budget Committee seeks best path forward

Humboldt State’s Budget Committee seeks best path forward

Humboldt State University’s University Resources and Planning Committee met on Sept. 12 to begin planning a three-year university budget.

Art Education Assistant Professor and Co-Chair of URPC James Woglom said URPC hopes for a budget that will allow HSU to be its best.

“My hope is to have the best university we can be in the context of what we have,” Woglom said. “I think that is the hope of everybody involved.”

URPC exists as part of the University Senate, with 14 members, including administration, faculty and students.

URPC released an update on Sept. 16 in which it estimated a $5.4 million budget gap by the fiscal year of 2021 to 2022.

HSU Budget Director Amber Blakeslee said HSU has already made over $10 million of budget reductions in the last few years. The $5.4 million projected gap comes from the continuing decline in student enrollment.

Assistant Professor of Art Education and Co-Chair of the University Resources and Planning Committee James Woglom in the HSU library on Sept. 20. Woglom emphasized the need for imaginative thinking to create the best budget possible for HSU. | Photo by James Wilde

“If there are less students on campus there’s less tuition coming in the door,” Blakeslee said. “So it’s not that all-of-the-sudden we’re spending more. It’s that there’s less revenue coming in to support the spending that we have.”

HSU’s enrollment dropped from 7,774 to 6,763 students this year. Projections expect enrollment to continue to drop. HSU has yet to update its website, which still lists 7,774 students enrolled and advertises having over 8,000 students.

HSU issued a press release on Tuesday, Sept. 24 detailing new efforts to increase enrollment, including a focus on local recruitment, improving student analytics and decreasing costs. 

However, Blakeslee said that HSU’s plans to recover enrollment numbers will take time. Until then, the budget gap must be reconciled.

Blakeslee hoped the budget cuts won’t have an impact on students, but Blakeslee acknowledged that any cuts will be difficult.

“There’s not a single thing we do on this campus that doesn’t have strong, passionate people behind it,” Blakeslee said. “If you’re talking about cutting things, you’re talking about the difference between multiple good things.”

“If there are less students on campus there’s less tuition coming in the door. So it’s not that all-of-the-sudden we’re spending more. It’s that there’s less revenue coming in to support the spending that we have.”

Amber Blakeslee

At this early stage, neither Blakeslee nor Woglom could rule out any specific cuts.

“We do need to have everything on the table in terms of our discussion so that we can make the best decision,” Woglom said.

Woglom emphasized multiple times that URPC will have to use its imagination to maintain HSU’s educational mission while cutting back financially.

“We do need to be creative within the context of the resources that we do have,” Woglom said. “If a course is not offered, how do we make sure that the curricular needs of the students is met with what we do have?”

Blakeslee said that while HSU is currently reducing expenditures, it is still trying to improve the student experience.

“There is simultaneous new investment happening, so it’s not like we’re just in a reduction mindset purely” Blakeslee said.

URPC expects to complete a plan by Dec. 6. Before then, both Blakeslee and Woglom emphasized the importance of seeking input from the HSU community.

“As much stakeholder input as we can get, the better our decisions are going to be, and the more interpersonally-invested we’re going to be,” Woglom said.

Blakeslee and Woglom said URPC will be holding public forums to discuss the budget, but no dates have been set.

Once URPC finalizes its plan in December, the plan will go to University President Tom Jackson, Jr., who will have the final say over the plan.

This article was updated Sept. 26 to include information from Humboldt State’s press release on the topic.

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