Miami task force offers ways to save, generate $20M

More than 100 staff members attend first of five open forums.

OXFORD — Miami University could face “major” cuts in five years if officials don’t make $40 million in budget changes.

Miami’s Strategic Priorities Task Force on Wednesday, Sept. 1, presented 34 recommendations that it says would create $20 million in cost savings and $20 million in new revenues that will carry Miami through the next five years and beyond.

The presentation at Hall Auditorium on Campus Avenue drew about 100 university staff members concerned about how the changes would impact their departments.

Recruiting more out-of-state and international undergraduates, and charging major-specific fees as a way to reduce overall tuition increases — because some programs are more costly to offer — are among the recommendations.

Other changes include charging students the in-state tuition rate for credit hours exceeding 18, unless specifically required by their major. In 2009-10, this would have led to $2.3 million in additional revenue.

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The recommendations come as Miami anticipates less funding from the state, a projected drop in the college-age population and increasing competition among schools.

“The university realizes that the landscape in higher education has changed. We can’t continue business as usual,” Chris Makaroff, co-chairman of the task force and chairman of the chemistry and bio-chemistry department.

Staff members who attended the meeting praised the task force for its efforts, butimplored them to be careful not to make changes or cuts that would unfairly target disciplines such as the arts and humanities and student centers that offer counseling, for example.

Jim Lentini, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said university officials face a difficult task in making millions of dollars in budget changes and at the same staying true to Miami’s core values.

“One size fits all is not going to work for academic affairs,” Lentini said.

“They have to take an honest look at where we’re underperforming and where we need to improve. We need to be very creative in how we solve this $40 million project ... We have to be creative and thoughtful in how this is going to impact the academic quality of this institution.

Andrea Ridilla, a music professor, said her chief concern is that officials protect the arts, especially because Miami is a Liberal Arts school.

“It’s difficult for everyone of course, because everyone sees it from their own point of view,” Riddilla said. “My concern is that they keep their eye on the value of the arts, not just for art majors, but for business and science majors. Because it is the arts that makes us sensitive to humanity.”

Task force co-chairmen Makaroff and Steve Wyatt both said they were encouraged by the feedback from university staff.

“Everyone recognizes that change has to happen and that it’s going on all over, not just at Miami,” Wyatt said. “We would have to make major cuts if we didn’t do it and if we don’t start now.”

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