UM making adjustments to cover new $3M shortfall

2013-11-06T20:11:00Z 2013-11-07T16:23:33Z UM making adjustments to cover new $3M shortfallBy Martin Kidston Missoulian The Billings Gazette
November 06, 2013 8:11 pm  • 

MISSOULA — Fewer out-of-state students enrolled in upper-division courses and more dual-enrolled students than projected will leave the University of Montana with a 1.85 percent budget shortfall, school officials said Wednesday.

The gap, which amounts to roughly $3 million of the university’s $161 million general fund, will be covered by ancillary savings and won’t have a direct impact on academic instruction or student support, the school said.

“To do that, we’re looking at contracts, the things we anticipated, and pulling some of those back,” said Michael Reid, vice president of administration and finance.

“We’ll look at general savings across the board like insurance and workmans’ comp, utilities, those kinds of areas.”

School officials believe a series of smaller adjustments can be made this semester to cover the $3 million gap without impacting academics. Instead of investing the university’s rebate from workers’ compensation, for example, it may go instead to help cover the shortfall.

UM Provost Perry Brown said revenues are based partially on the blend of students enrolled at the university each semester and the tuition rate applied to each enrollment category, such as resident and nonresident students, undergraduates and graduate students.

The budget gap occurred after fewer nonresident students enrolled in upper-division classes than initially projected, and after more dual-enrolled students, or high school students, signed up to take college courses.

“Because of the different costs associated with tuition and fees for these groups, the impact on the budget amounts to a 1.85 percent shortfall – just less than $3 million – in the general fund for the current semester,” said Brown. “What establishes our actual revenues is more complicated than headcount.”

While savings can be found to cover the gap this semester, Brown and Reid said the spring semester may pose new challenges.

The university is recalculating its budget projections for the spring semester, and it currently anticipates a 2 percent shortfall, or an additional $3 million.

The savings there may be harder to find, as one-time cuts will be made this semester, making additional savings harder to find next semester.

“We have time to discuss and plan for how to handle the anticipated spring shortfall,” Brown said. “The university has a structure and process in place that helps us address strategies for moving forward using the planning and budget committees.”

Earlier this year, the university formed a Planning and Assessment Committee and five subgroups to look at enrollment, revenue enhancement, resource allocation, savings and academic programming.

Two of the working groups have already submitted their findings.

The committee will evaluate the work and see if the recommendations can help streamline costs, bring in new revenue and find new ways to allocate the university’s resources.

While the committees move forward and administrators look to trim $3 million from the budget this semester, UM faculty members are planning a forum next week to identify their own cost-saving alternatives.

Many faculty members fear that future cuts will come from academics.

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