University Anticipates Lower Budget Reduction Target

By Meghan Brink | May 3, 2021


With more than expected aid from the state aid, combined with federal stimulus funding and structural savings, the university said it plans to lower its permanent budget reduction target by $5 million and does not anticipate any layoffs or retrenchments among faculty.


In a Spring University Address on Thursday, President Havidán Rodríguez said the university’s permanent reduction target will be lowered to $33 million from $38 million in the upcoming budget. About $25 million of that target has already been met by eliminating vacancies, reducing general department spending, and general revenue generation.


“We have already achieved structural savings in the vicinity of $25 million towards that $33 million target with no layoffs, no retrenchments, no program closures, or cuts to our scholarship funds,” Rodríguez during the address, delivered by Zoom.


The remaining $8 million in permanent reductions, aimed at Academic Affairs, will be implemented over a timeline of four years. In a separate university announcement, Provost Carol Kim said these reductions will be primarily achieved through attrition from retirements and resignations.


“We do not anticipate any retrenchments or cancellations of any programs,” Kim said in the release.


Under the projected budget announced earlier this year, the university anticipated Academic Affairs would face a 15% cut across all departments, which the University United Professions union’s Vice President Paul Stasi said he feared would “radically reshape the university” in the next fiscal year.


Plans for how the $8 million in cuts to Academic Affairs will be achieved have not yet been finalized, however, a budget metric work group created earlier in the year will play a role in distributing cuts across the various departments. The budget group is composed of various stakeholders within Academic Affairs and has been working to review a series of budget metrics such as enrollment, diversity, retention, research excellence, public engagement, diversity and inclusion, and revenue generation.


According to Rodríguez, the state budget also increased funding to the Educational Opportunity Program and the Tuition Assistance Program. The maximum TAP award granted based on need to eligible New York College students rose $500 to $5,665 from $5,165, a nearly 10% gain.


The state budget also includes a four-year plan to address the TAP Gap, allocating funding to lessen the difference between full-cost tuition and the amount of tuition TAP students are allowed to be charged. The cost of that gap falls on the university. This plan is estimated to save the university $6.5 million annually by 2024-2025.


In other budget news, the UAlbany Center for Excellence in Weather and Climate Analytics received a $550,000 increase in funding to $800,000.


The state also authorized the payment of negotiated salary increases. “These increases are well deserved and more details will be coming soon from Human Resources,” said Rodríguez.


Addressing concerns about the non renewal of adjunct faculty during the Fall 2021 semester, Rodríguez said the loss of these faculty positions was not “an anomaly that occurred this year as a consequence of COVID-19.”


“Every single semester we take a comprehensive look at our academic calendar, what are the courses we are going to need. Sometimes we need more adjuncts, sometimes we need less,” he said.


The university announcement of the budget noted that news of less than expected cuts and federal funding brings optimism, however, according to the release “the share of three stimulus bills that our campus can keep will total about $47 million, while our pandemic-related expenses and lost revenue total $63.2 million.”


“The stimulus has made the hole that we need to climb out of much shallower, but we have not nearly recovered our losses,” the release added.


In an effort to increase revenue, the university announced plans to attempt to increase enrollment by tapping into an expanding demographic of degree seeking adult learners in New York State.


Rodríguez said he has asked Kim to develop a blueprint for capturing the attention of adult learners, “whether through professional studies, certificate programs, or traditional undergraduate or graduate degrees, especially through online programs.”


Rodríguez added that the university is also planning to make investments into academic programs in an effort to improve recruitment, retention, and revenue generation to help recover losses. However, he emphasized that “we cannot be all things to all people” and “we are going to have to make some priorities in where those resources are going to go.”


The president cited that the metric work groups in Academic Affairs that are being used to distribute the needed budget cuts will serve as a basis to assist in deciding where to allocate the limited resources that are available.


“We can have growth through increases in enrollment as well,” said Kim. “What I would like to do is work with the deans, work with the chairs, and the faculty to work with these units that could maybe see an increase in enrollment by increasing their visibility.”


Other challenges being faced by the university as a result of the state budget that will increase costs in future include, “no new operating support for SUNY beyond 2019 levels, no funding for contractual salary increases and no authorization for SUNY to increase tuition.”


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