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UW Targets $15 Million Reduction for 2018 Fiscal Year

July 13, 2016

A committee charged with consulting with University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols to prepare a plan to reduce spending in the 2018 fiscal year has recommended a total of $15 million in cuts across the university, based upon current budget allocations.

Nichols has endorsed the approach in light of the possibility that budget-reduction measures taken for the 2017 fiscal year that began July 1 won’t meet the target of $19.3 million, and to allow for flexibility, the president told the UW Board of Trustees during a teleconference meeting today (Wednesday).

The Financial Crisis Advisory Committee (FCAC) has been meeting twice a week to help the president prepare a plan for the 2018 fiscal year to present to the Board of Trustees later this year. The reductions are a result of a drop in the university’s state block grant, driven by Wyoming’s economic downturn and loss of state government revenue. For the biennium that began July 1, UW faces a loss of nearly $41 million in state funding.

The targeted reduction of $19.3 million for the current fiscal year was based upon estimates of several actions approved by the Board of Trustees in June. The biggest piece of that reduction is eliminating at least 70 vacant positions across the university, which is expected to save about $5.2 million per year. Additional savings were to come from standardizing the teaching load for faculty members and severely limiting temporary faculty appointments ($2.5 million); offering a retirement and separation incentive to some longtime employees ($3 million); not allowing part-time positions to be benefitted between half-time and full-time ($1.5 million); and eliminating overtime and overload pay (at least $100,000).

These cuts are in addition to a total of $7 million in reductions based upon allocations given to campus units when the Legislature mandated a 1.5 percent reduction during the 2016 session.

Nichols says there is uncertainty regarding the savings to be realized from the standardized teaching load, and that the retirement and separation incentive might not generate as much as had been estimated. Based upon that information -- and the possibility that further losses of state funding are possible -- the FCAC voted to pursue cuts totaling $15 million for the 2018 fiscal year, rather than an initial estimate of $10 million. The additional reduction also could allow for flexibility in advancing specific university priorities.

“The committee feels strongly that, in order to meet the $41 million reduction for the biennium, the university must take steps now to reduce spending by $15 million in the 2018 fiscal year,” says Stephen Bieber, a longtime UW statistics professor who chairs the FCAC. “And we believe all units of the university must participate, with the exception of funding for student scholarships, utilities and the university police department.”

The committee recommended these reductions from FY 2017 levels for FY 2018: Academic Affairs, $9.5 million; Division of Administration, $1.5 million; Athletics, $1.2 million; Information Technology, $1 million; Student Affairs, $970,000; Office of General Counsel, $215,000; President’s Office, $190,000; UW Foundation, $175,000; Office of Research and Economic Development, $150,000; and Governmental and Community Affairs, $100,000.

In addition to providing details of how those reductions would be made to the FCAC, the individual units will be asked to assess the impact of the cuts. The committee plans to discuss the reporting process, and possible guidelines for the units to follow, at its next meeting on Friday. The group meets Tuesdays and Fridays from noon-2 p.m. in Room 506 of Coe Library. The meetings are open to the public, with the exception of executive sessions to consider matters such as individual position cuts.

The president and the FCAC expect to hold a town-hall meeting later this month to explain their approach and provide an update to the UW community.

Decisions about specific academic programs and positions to be eliminated will be based in large measure upon program reviews that began this spring. Currently under review are programs with fewer than 25 graduates over a five-year period, and master’s degree programs with fewer than 15 graduates over a five-year period. Additional review will be performed on undergraduate programs with 25-50 graduates over a five-year period, and master’s degree programs with 15-25 graduates.

While the Office of Academic Affairs began by looking at programs with low demand, the review process takes into account demand, quality and centrality to the UW mission. Review can result in retention because of critical need, retention with further review at a later time, consolidation or termination.

Specific non-academic program reductions will be informed by a comprehensive review of the operational performance of UW’s administrative functions conducted by Huron Consulting Group. FCAC members met with Huron representatives Tuesday and voted to align the committee’s efforts with Huron’s process, which aims to identify areas where the university can become more efficient. Huron has conducted similar performance improvement reviews for more than 40 of the top 100 research universities in the country.

Because of that decision, the timeline for presenting a FY 2018 reduction plan to the Board of Trustees has been extended. Nichols expects to present a preliminary plan, with input from the committee, to the FCAC by Oct. 4; the committee members then will review it and present it to the campus for comment by Oct. 11. The comment period will end Nov. 1, and the FCAC will present a revised plan to the president by Nov. 8. Nichols will give her final recommendation to the Board of Trustees at its regular meeting Nov. 17.

Nichols also expects to present a proposal for additional revenues for the 2018 fiscal year, based upon recommendations from a separate committee headed by Associate Professor Rob Godby in the Department of Economics and Finance. Specifically, that group is charged with developing a plan for program fees and differentiated tuition for high-cost programs.

In addition to Bieber, members of the FCAC are: Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs David Jones, to be succeeded by Kate Miller Aug. 1; Vice President for Administration Bill Mai; Outreach School Dean Susan Frye; College of Law Dean Klint Alexander; Associate Professor Robert Sprague, in the Department of Management and Marketing; Professor Donal O’Toole, in the Department of Veterinary Sciences; Molly Marcusse, assistant archivist at the American Heritage Center; Professor Frederic Sterbenz, in the Department of Economics and Finance; Professor R. McGreggor Cawley, in the Department of Political Science; Kevin Colman, bus driver in UW Transit and Parking Services; Rachel Stevens, office associate, senior, in the School of Pharmacy; and Associated Students of UW representative Joel Defebaugh.

The FCAC and the president continue to invite input from the campus community and others. People are encouraged to email their comments and ideas to

Information about UW’s budget reductions for the new biennium is available on a new Web page,

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