by Rima Thompson
With news last month of a budget shortfall of roughly $2.6 million hitting the University of La Verne, department managers and students are wondering how their programs and educations will be impacted.
“In spite of an active year of recruiting and heroic efforts to positively affect our retention rates, we fell short of our (enrollment) goal by approximately 4 percent,” University President Stephen Morgan wrote in a Nov. 18 memo to faculty and staff calling for voluntary cuts.
This week, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Fred Yaffe sent a memo to his department chairs calling for spending cuts of around 9 percent – ranging from $300 in the religious studies department to $8,000 in the natural science department.
With the budget at about 4.5 percent and cuts pending, the ULV community has begun to ask the tough questions: Are layoffs of faculty or staff pending? And what kind of tuition increase can students expect next year?
The short-term goal, Morgan said in an interview this week, will to be to balance the current year’s budget. In January ULV officials will begin to prepare the budget for the 2004-2005 year.
As part of that budget process, they will look at some of the University’s expenditures and reevaluate some of the operations, said ULV Executive Vice President Phil Hawkey.
The long-term goal will be to look at enrollment initiatives to promote growth, which will bring additional resources to the school, Morgan said.
“We will not experience layoffs,” Hawkey said.
Though new and returning students will be looking at nearly 5 percent tuition increase come fall 2004, when their annual tuition will be up to about $21,500.
“The 4.88 percent tuition increase allows us to essentially continue the current levels of operations,” Hawkey said. “And (it) will give us some resources to invest in our facilities, to invest in technology and to strengthen the University.”
Morgan elaborated: “The primary reason that tuition has increased on almost an annual basis is because about 94 percent of the revenue for the University of La Verne comes from tuition. If (we) are going to raise salaries, pay our increased light bills, gas bills and water bills, then (we) have no choice but to raise tuition.”
The University had a similar tuition increase of 5.13 percent this year, which some believe led to lower-than-anticipated enrollment, which contributed to this year’s budget shortfall.
“We are very much aware that our students are price sensitive,” Morgan said. “Many of them work hard to pay their tuition. They borrow money to pay their tuition, so we try to keep our tuition increases within reasonable limits.”
In fact, compared with similar private schools in Southern California, ULV’s tuition tends to be right in the middle, Morgan said.
The University’s planned 4.88 percent tuition increase for next year is well below last fall’s average 5.7 percent increase from other private colleges, Hawkey added.
The increase, these officials said, allows ULV to continue to improve its technology and facilities, among other resources needed to stay competitive.
But if ULV is going to get out of the red, it will need also to focus efforts on attracting and retaining the maximum number of students with both short-term and long-term initiatives, which they said are already in the works.
Generating interest among prospective students – at least in the moment – seems illusive.
“In light of the recent reduction in opportunities in the state university system, many of us wonder why students impacted by that didn’t chose to come to La Verne,” said Photography Department Chairman Gary Colby.
“Interest in the school by prospective students is the issue,” said Colby, adding: “The root of the budget problem is not a decision made by administrators to arbitrarily cut the budget but the reduced enrollment of students.”
But even dramatically increasing next year’s enrollment will not save the community from this year’s budget mess. La Verne’s senior managers, deans and vice presidents are working to shift cuts away from services to students and academic programs, Morgan said.
Deans and department chairs have been asked to delay filling vacancies and to streamline expenditures on such things as office furniture and supplies.
“We are confident that we’ll be able to manage this year very well,” Hawkey said. “Of course we’ll be looking at next year’s enrollment at undergraduate as well as all the other graduate programs and the adult programs. All those add up to the total budget.”
ULV has a $91 million budget. About 25 percent of that supports traditional undergraduate students. The rest goes to adult and graduate programs. The University will be looking at enrollment in all of those programs when making budget decisions.
Morgan said he thinks that it can be done without affecting current employees.
“The good news is that we are early enough in the year where we can adjust without having serious consequences,” Hawkey said.
Music department chairman Scott Farthing said, however, that such belt-tightening will not go unnoticed.
“I do know that every school and organization will have times that spending will have to be carefully watched and controlled,” Farthing said. “Anytime an already tight budget gets cut there are many repercussions to that action. Obviously our greatest hope is that we can still serve our students to the best of our ability no matter what the budget cuts.”
But Al Clark, vice president of academic affairs, said he believes planned budget cuts will not adversely affect students.
“I do not believe the budget cuts will harm the academic or extracurricular programs of the University,” Clark said. “In fact, I do not think that students will even notice a change. We might not run classes with only 3 or 4 enrollments and count them as full classes. They never have been full classes, but at times we have allowed them to run. Other than this, the belt tightening will be almost imperceptible to students and faculty.
“Indeed, I expect the institution to become stronger due to the careful scrutiny to which its programs, policies, and procedures will be subjected because of the current financial challenge,” he added.