- Letters to Editor
BY: KYLE WOOSLEY
Eastern is preparing for a serious belt-tightening in the next few months.
The university will be reallocating $23 million to the next administration in order to reach a goal set by the Board of Regents by July 1.
The reallocations would be used to increase the quality of Eastern’s growing programs and to provide raises and better salaries for faculty and staff within those programs.
Eastern President Doug Whitlock said enrollment decreases over the last couple of years are responsible for the necessary reallocation.
“The failure to reach our enrollment projections each of the last two years has also caused a shortfall for each of the last two years to reach our tuition revenue,” Whitlock said.
Whitlock said the university has watched its enrollment drop by about 400 students over the last two years.
The $23 million is made up of 10 percent of the university’s combined general education fund and auxiliary budgets, he said.
Whitlock said he wanted to make sure people understood the difference between reallocated money and the budget cuts the university has been facing.
“This exercise is not like the budget cuts that we’ve been through in the last several years because nobody’s taking our money,” Whitlock said. “The money is all going to stay right here with Eastern Kentucky University, but we’re going to have an opportunity to make a real strategic difference in the future of the institution.”
Whitlock said the reallocated money is to be used particularly for faculty pay and increasing quality of growing programs and opportunities at Eastern.
He said it costs approximately $1.5 million to give a 1-percent raise across the board at Eastern.
The growing programs, Whitlock said, are important to the strategic development for Eastern.
“An institution like Eastern can’t stay the same,” Whitlock said. “It’s got to have the ability to change and redirect our sources to programs that have the potential for growth. We don’t enable ourselves to serve students with programs they’re looking for now, somebody else will and this institution would just wither away.”
Whitlock said he hopes the money will be useful to Eastern’s next president once he or she takes office.
“Over the years, there are new things that present themselves and EKU needs to be enabled to do that too,” Whitlock said. “This will help my successor deal with this institution’s future in a very strategic and positive, positive way.”
The reallocation process could also result in layoffs of faculty and staff throughout the university.
Because 75 percent of Eastern’s current budget goes to employee salaries and benefits, Whitlock doesn’t think it’s possible to reach the goal without layoffs.
“Ultimately, this could result in some layoffs, which we’ve been fortunate to be perhaps the only institution in the state to avoid those at this point,” Whitlock said. “But to use a phrase that you hear in Washington a lot, we may have kicked the can as far down the road as we can.”
Bethany Miller, director of Institutional Research, said the student to faculty ratio in the 2011-2012 year at Eastern was 15.7-to-1, which improved from 16.8-to-1 from the 2010-2011 year.
“You want as few students to one faculty member as possible,” Miller said.
Janna Vice, university provost, said the university is currently collecting data on different departments.
“Right now, we’re in the process of finding data to look at the effectiveness of departments and a lot of things have to be taken into account,” Vice said. “We’re looking for programs that do not have as much student interest as they once did or don’t have as much faculty to run the programs as they once did.”
Any program that does not meet the requirements, Vice said, would still allow current students to complete their degree.
“The immediate impact on the students should not be severe,” Vice said.
Although the university would have less majors to offer after the possible cuts, Vice said she thinks it will be beneficial to Eastern’s overall future.
Malcolm Frisbie, faculty chair on the Board of Regents, said he sees the layoffs as inevitable but necessary for the university.
“That’s a hard reality,” Frisbie said. “Personnel costs make a large portion of the university’s costs in our overall budgets. If you do any kind of sizable budget reallocation, it is going to impact personnel somehow.”
Whitlock said some portion of the overall budget could also be achieved through early retirement programs.
“Hopefully, to the largest degree possible, that [$23 million] can be achieved through retirements, perhaps some incentive programs to cause people to retire earlier than they might,” Whitlock said.
In a statement released to the university, Whitlock said he is committed to make the process as fair and humane as possible.
Although no official decisions have been made, Whitlock said the university will stick with its core mission, which is to provide Eastern’s students with high quality instruction and service.
Whitlock has created a Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force in hopes of finding options to reach this goal.
“I’ve asked them to look at everything that’s on the table, to look at how we can achieve that $23 million figure,” Whitlock said. “When they’ve come up with their list of possibilities, then I’m going to ask the Strategic Planning and Finance Council to look at it, evaluate it and give me their recommendations.”
The task force is comprised of the Dean’s Council, the President’s cabinet and representatives from Budgeting, Faculty Senate, Fiscal Management and the Strategic Planning and Finance Council.
“This effort will touch us all so everyone needs to have involvement,” Whitlock said.
Though reallocation is a tough situation to deal with, Frisbie said the process would be more beneficial to Eastern in the long run.
“It’s going to be difficult to do this but we can do it together,” Frisbie said. “The university will be in a much more strategic position when we get it done.”