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Published August 15, 2016
The University of Wyoming has realized reductions totaling about $16 million for the current fiscal year, under its target of $19.3 million.
While efforts will continue to reach the FY 2017 target, President Laurie Nichols and UW’s Financial Crisis Advisory Committee (FCAC) are proceeding with a process to identify additional cuts totaling $15 million for the following fiscal year.
Nichols, who updated the FCAC on the FY 2017 reductions during its regular meeting Friday, says she is pleased the immediate budget-cutting measures approved by the Board of Trustees in June have produced savings that approach the estimates.
“We didn’t have a great deal of lead time to prepare a reduction plan for the current fiscal year, so the fact that we were able to realize some significant savings is remarkable,” Nichols says. “The task before us for the following fiscal year is an extremely challenging one, and I appreciate the efforts of many to help the university make the additional reductions with a minimal impact to our students while holding true to our mission of education, research and service.”
The 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 in November. 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 biggest piece of the $16 million reduction for the current fiscal year is eliminating 97 vacant positions across the university, which saves $5.7 million. The original target was 70 vacant positions to save $5.2 million, but Nichols says that dollar figure was overly optimistic, and the decision was made to eliminate other vacant positions when it became apparent other cost-cutting measures wouldn’t produce what had been estimated.
The 97 eliminated positions are scattered across campus units, including 13 faculty positions, 63 staff positions, 15 academic professional jobs, four administrators, one administrative professional and one contract employee.
Nichols says 41 more positions have become vacant, in addition to the 97 that were eliminated. She and UW’s vice presidents are holding open eight of the new vacancies, while allowing the others to be filled. Those include positions in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, UW Operations and Information Technology. As additional positions come open, the administration will assess each one to determine if there’s a compelling need to fill it, or whether it could be restructured or eliminated.
An additional $2.5 million has been saved in the current fiscal year by standardizing the teaching load for faculty members, reducing the need for temporary faculty appointments. And not allowing part-time positions to be benefitted between half-time and full-time is expected to generate about half of the original $1.5 million savings estimate.
A retirement and separation incentive offered to some longtime employees yielded 55 departures, including eight faculty members and 36 staff members. That is expected to generate savings of $4.3 million annually, but not until the 2018 fiscal year. The original hope was that the incentive would produce savings of $3 million for the current fiscal year and $6 million for the biennium, but Nichols says any savings in FY 2017 were used to cover the incentive and health insurance; the full $4.3 million savings will occur in FY 2018.
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.
Recognizing that the reductions for the current fiscal year have had disparate impacts on units of the university, the FCAC says the FY 2018 reduction targets it distributed earlier this summer are only starting points to help understand the potential impacts of further reductions. The committee has asked for details on how the following reductions would be made, and the impact they would have: 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.
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 for high-cost programs.
Nichols and the FCAC also have asked for information to consider potential savings that might come from changes to the relative retirement contributions of the university and its employees.
Decisions about specific academic programs and positions to be eliminated for FY 2018 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.
Nichols expects to present a preliminary plan to the FCAC for review and comment by Oct. 10; it then goes to the campus for comment Oct. 11. The comment period will end Oct. 28, and the FCAC will present the comments to the president by Nov. 1. Nichols will give her final recommendation to the Board of Trustees Nov. 8 for consideration at its regular meeting Nov. 16.
FCAC meeting schedules, locations, minutes and agendas are available at www.uwyo.edu/president/budget_planning/fcac/. Comments from visitors will be accepted at the conclusion of each meeting.
The FCAC and the president continue to invite input from the campus community and others via email as well as in person. People are encouraged to email their comments and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about UW’s budget reductions for the new biennium is available at www.uwyo.edu/president/budget_planning/.
Throughout the budget-reduction process, UW’s guiding principles include: Reductions will have minimal impact on student success including recruitment/access, retention, persistence, transfer ease, and timely completion of degrees; UW will continue to place the quality of academic programs as the highest priority; UW will maintain or enhance excellence in research, scholarship and creative activity which contributes to the state’s economy and enriches society; and UW will preserve its statewide presence through outreach, extension, and UW athletics.