The Oregon State Board of Higher Education convened last Friday to hear a report concerning mounting budget reductions threatening the Oregon University System.
At the meeting, Jan Lewis, OUS assistant vice chancellor for budget operations, bore the grave news that the system’s budget has been reduced by $52.2 million in the last three months. In June, the state presented the Board with $31,617,152 in budget reductions, which has been compounded with September’s $20,614,127 worth of reductions. Both sets of cuts represent a decrease of 12.4 percent in the state’s General Fund budget for OUS. Lewis told the board there is a lingering concern that future revenue forecasts for the next few years could call for additional cuts to the OUS budget, creating an even greater financial dilemma for Oregon’s universities in successive years. Reduction allocations have been applied proportionally to individual universities based on the original budget distributions for the 2011 fiscal year.
Not all the financial news was daunting, however. During the meeting, Lewis noted that record enrollment has aided some campuses at managing the budget cuts. To this end, the vice chancellor warned that increased income from tuition would not come close to covering the shortfall and that the OUS would eventually need to seek emergency funding from the board.
Diane Saunders, director of communications for the Office of the Chancellor of the OUS, said the budget cuts are a result of insufficient state funding in light of the economic recession and abnormally low tax revenue.
“The cuts were part of a state mandated cut after the state revenue shortfall due to the recession and lower than normal state revenues coming in from income taxes and other sources,” Saunders said.
However, the director is optimistic that higher enrollment levels at OUS schools will help offset the cuts and, with minimal help from the state, maintain quality student instruction.
“Because enrollment levels at OUS campuses are higher than anticipated, the current tuition revenue should be able to help the campuses manage without (making) cuts which affect students,” Saunders said. “There are no planned tuition increases until fall of 2011 from current levels.”
Frances Dyke, the University’s vice president for finance and administration, said the University is experiencing a similar trend of record enrollments and will likely not be increasing tuition for the rest of the school year.
“Record enrollments are also true for the University,” Dyke said. “Also, we do not anticipate any additional increases in tuition for 2010-11 fiscal year.”
To combat the compounded reductions mandated by the state, University administrators are working diligently to stifle excess spending and use reserve funds economically.
“We are managing the additional reductions in state appropriation by controlling expenditures and using reserves as needed,” Dyke said.