‘Overspending’ causing more layoffs at Wright State next month

More layoffs are imminent at Wright State University and the school’s top finance official said plans for cuts will likely come next month.

Officials were unsure how many employees or exactly who would be laid off but they said cuts would not be made “across the board” and that they would be made with as little impact as possible on academics.

“I’d be fooling everybody if I didn’t say more cuts were coming,” said Jeff Ulliman, WSU vice president of business and finance.

WSU trustees pressed Ulliman and provost Tom Sudkamp on Friday for more details of what the university is doing to cut costs. President David Hopkins has given the officials until April 3 to provide an updated cost savings plan for the university.

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That plan will likely be discussed or presented in trustee committee meetings on April 7.

“These decisions will be difficult but they have to be made for the best interests of our students and our university,” said Doug Fecher, chairman of the finance committee of the WSU board of trustees.

The university needs to do “whatever it takes,” Fecher said, to balance the budget and replenish reserves.

The plan to increase savings will likely also call for some WSU departments or operations to merge, Ulliman said. Wright State’s budget issues are mostly the result of overspending, Ulliman told trustees on Friday.

The university is on track to spend $40 million more than it brought in this year, according to cash projection presented to the finance committee. The university spent around $45 million more than it took in during Fiscal Year 2016, according to the report.

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The overspending means the university will be left with $26 million to $27 million in total reserve funding, Ulliman said.

“Overspending is what got us to where we are over the past number of years,” Ulliman said. “We didn’t appropriately have funds set aside for the purposes we spent them.”

Part of the reason for the overspending this year, officials said, was an enrollment projection that didn’t pan out. WSU predicted enrollment would grow by 1 percent this academic year but a loss of more than 400 international students actually cost the university around $10 million.

WSU officials have said the drop was mostly due in part to a scholarship opportunity in Saudi Arabia disappearing.

“You put all your eggs in a couple of baskets and if those baskets have problems then enrollment drops,” Sudkamp said.

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The announcement of more layoffs comes a little more than a week after Hopkins told the university that officials need to find $25 million in savings in Fiscal Year 2018, as opposed to the $8 million in savings they originally said was needed. Hopkins also announced a hiring freeze last week.

Fecher on Friday advocated the need to speak candidly about Wright State’s ongoing budget issues, though it may be difficult at times. University officials must begin to look for cost savings immediately as they cannot afford to waste time, Fecher said.

“Our brand is at stake,” Fecher said of WSU. “If we don’t get our finances in order, students could choose other options because they worry about our ability to serve them.”

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WRIGHT STATE EMPLOYEES

Wright State is expected to cut more employees sometime in April when officials finalize a cost savings report requested by President David Hopkins.Wright State announced it would cut 23 positions in October.

• 910 full-time faculty

• 24 part-time faculty

• 921 adjunct faculty

• 1,528 full-time staff

• 369 part-time staff

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