Big spending begs financial questions

For at least the second time in the history of the University of La Verne, the University seems to be doing some serious spending without the money in the budget to fund it.

A memo from President Stephen Morgan was distributed to the La Verne community Nov. 18 depicting monetary shortfalls due to low enrollment numbers.

Since that revelation of a more than $2.5 million shortfall, some departments were recently asked to cut as much as 9 percent of their operating budgets.

It seems that this budget shortfall is due to the fact that enrollment fell below its target. In other words, the University had hoped and expected to have more tuition money to cover operating costs and other projects.

Next year tuition will increase by 4.88 percent. This year’s increase was slightly higher than that.

But with tuition already accounting for approximately 94 percent of the University’s revenue, it seems that every year the whole budgeting process – important programs, facilities and improvement plans – are vulnerable to an ever fluctuating admissions pool.

Why doesn’t the University have more resources – other revenue options – to assure that needed programs and improvements (never mind faculty raises) are covered?

Now with the budget more than $2 million in the in the red, the only option is to cut department budgets. Departments in the College of Arts and Sciences have been asked to shave 9 percent from their operating budgets. Those units range from $300 to more than $8,000, depending on the departments and the technology they use.

These big cuts are already being felt by those department chairs, who don’t know what to eliminate first. For some this may be the snack fund, while other departments may have to forgo or postpone acquiring needed technology.

What kind of consistent education will the University be able to provide into the future with its funding source so changeable?

Why should students and faculty be deprived of these funds and offered sub-par opportunities?

Why doesn’t the University have an endowment to fall back on? Or at least an iron-clad plan for obtaining such an endowment through making serious fund raising one of the highest priorities?

Most private universities have a large endowment tucked away that they can use when such an unexpected enrollment dip occurs.

ULV’s endowment seems to pale in comparison.

There are many things the University could have done, and still can do. And it starts with fundraising. ULV needs to be more aggressive.

Other institutions have staffs of grant writers who bring money into the school and its departments. ULV could also vigorously solicit contributions from alumni: Send them letters – monthly.

Before becoming president in 1985, Stephen Morgan was vice president of development. At that time he said fundraising was an absolute must.

Now, more than ever, the University should be looking into independent foundations and federal government grants.

It’s worked before.

In 1977, the University was able to bring in a little over $200,000 from independent foundations to alleviate budget problems then.

Currently, University Relations uses the annual phone-a-thon as a source for bringing in money. That’s great. Let’s see more.

Compared with other private Southern California institutions, ULV’s tuition falls in the middle of the spectrum.

Although next year’s planned increase is lower than this year’s, we don’t want to see such increases every year.

As for the immediate budget problems, we hope the University will think long and hard about cutting department funding that could affect the quality of our academic programs.

Maybe, instead, the University can cut back on the amount of money being poured into a law school that has not been accredited after all the valiant and costly efforts.

In the long term, we hope whatever the University does to remedy the budget situation – increase enrollment, aggressively fund raise, hopefully a little of both – will be successful.

Right now, administration, if you are planning cuts, please remember the students. We’re here for the excellent education: the small classes, the great facilities, the excellent instructors, the ever-improving technology. Please don’t take a step backward in these areas.

Please, during this unfortunate budget evaluation, seriously reevaluate the school’s operations and keep the students’ best interests in mind.

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