Wright State needs to carve $10.5M out of its budget this year

Wright State University will need to carve out more than $10.5 million of its budget this year that was not part of the school’s original fiscal year 2018 budget adopted in June.

The millions that have to be squeezed from the university’s budget are due to enrollment mix issues, additional scholarship and fellowship costs and the need to generate a $6 million surplus this year, according to a budget document distributed at a board of trustees meeting Friday morning.

The university is already working on solutions to head off potentially similar unforeseen shortfalls that could pop up for next year’s budget, said Walt Branson, vice president for finance and operations and chief business officer at Wright State.

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“We don’t like to present these kind of reports and we’re going to continue to work to get a handle on this,” Branson said.

The enrollment issues arose because the mix of in-state versus out-of-state students did not come in as expected this fall, said board chairman Doug Fecher. The university had more in-state students enroll than expected and fewer out-of-state students, Fecher said.

Non-Ohio residents pay more for tuition at most state institutions so fewer than anticipated students from out of state meant fewer tuition dollars for Wright State this fall. Tuition and fees are typically the top revenue source for most universities.

The enrollment issue caused Wright State tuition revenue to come in around $4.7 million under projections, according to the document. In-state enrollment declined from 15,412 in 2016 to 14,832 this fall while out-of state students increased from 823 people in 2016 to 1,166 in 2017.

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Wright State suffered around a 400-person drop in international students last year, which in 2016 caused a loss of around $10 million, officials said at the time. International enrollment declined again from 2016 to 2017 by 426 students, according to WSU institutional research.

Additional scholarship and fellowship expenses cost the school $3.5 million while the need to boost reserves by $6 million this year will require Wright State to shave another $2.2 million from its 2018 budget, according to the document.

Wright State plans to make up the revenue difference through $1 million in savings from summer classes and operations, $1 million from non-labor “discretionary spending,” and more than $8.5 million from positions not filled, according to the budget document.

There will be an estimated $15.5 million available due to positions not filled at Wright State, the document shows. Wright State’s strategic hiring committee has already identified $4.6 million in vacant positions that can be left empty, said Jeff Ulliman, Wright State vice president of business and finance.

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“One way to look at it is we’re half way to the $8.5 million we need,” Ulliman said.

Although the hiring committee is evaluating which positions can remain vacant and which need to be filled, trustee Bruce Langos called for a hiring freeze. Sean Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board’s finance committee, disagreed but said that Wright State’s finances mean hiring needs to be looked at more closely.

“I’m not sure I would advocate for freezing it because, you know, if you need somebody to teach a class you’ve got to hire somebody to teach the class,” Fitzpatrick said. “I would certainly put a frost on it though.”

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