Apr. 7—Indiana State University has completed the process of making $12 million in budget cuts necessary for next year’s budget, university President Deborah Curtis has announced.
Several retirements meant that fewer people had to be laid off.
ISU needed to reorganize and reduce expenses for a fiscal year 2024 budget that “allows us to live within our means and chart a renewed course” for the university, she said.
The president announced in November that the university had to reduce expenses by at least $12 million for the upcoming year. The university’s enrollment has been declining over the past several years, due to a number of factors and trends, including the pandemic.
“Any losses are painful, of course, yet fewer than 10 positions have been eliminated with people in them,” she said. The eliminated positions were about evenly split between faculty and staff.
In addition, “At the time of this message, we have received notice of 37 retirements taking place by June 30, and another five by Dec. 31. These decisions to retire in many instances allowed us to keep more people employed at ISU,” she stated.
Curtis provided additional information in a video.
Re-organization strategies for the next budget year “are either in progress or have been completed,” she said.
“Some of those strategies focused on thinning out some administrative layers. Examples include reducing the number of associate deans, deans, directors or associate directors in different units,” Curtis said.
Most of those changes resulted in “colleagues returning to faculty or, in the case of staff, moving into different roles that consolidated various responsibilities to deliver services to students and campus in more efficient ways,” she said.
Some of these administrative changes were able to take place due to retirements “that opened up the opportunity to collapse some responsibilities into different roles,” she stated.
Budget planning for next year “also includes exploring what we can do in consideration of compensation enhancements for fiscal year 2024,” she stated.
Across campus, a significant amount of budget savings was found in the elimination of about 50 vacant faculty and staff positions.
“Serious efforts were made in most cases to help those in eliminated positions find a new role here at ISU if they wanted to stay with the university,” she said.
In perhaps an unexpected development, the university now is in a position where it must hire several employees, both faculty and staff.
When reductions combined with retirements were reviewed, “We also found it necessary to engage in some new hiring,” the president stated. About 20 faculty searches are underway.
The university also has about 40 open staff positions that have been posted.
Faculty Senate president James Gustafson said of the budget reductions, “We lost faculty and staff but managed to avoid mass layoffs this year. They have expressed confidence that we are at a more sustainable place after this year’s restructuring.”
Some of the budget and enrollment indicators are moving in the right direction, in part because of what ISU offers relative to larger, over-enrolled schools in the state, he said.
In addition, “We have also spoken about the need for better and more equitable pay to attract and retain faculty. I was happy to see that commitment referenced in President Curtis’ video,” Gustafson said.
ISU is still awaiting the results of the state Legislature’s next biennial budget. “Right now, it’s looking pretty good,” Curtis said in an interview.
Next year’s budget is based on flat enrollment, and the university must focus on ensuring those admitted ultimately do decide to attend ISU, the president said.
While FY 2024 budget cuts are complete, might there be a need for additional cuts in future years?
“This was a pretty big adjustment that we think puts us in a place to do the year-to-year kind of adjustments that we tend to do regularly without as big a bite as we took this year,” she said.
State funding, enrollment and the economy all have an impact on ISU and its budget. In addition, higher education nationwide faces an “enrollment cliff,” which refers to the dramatic drop in the college-age population beginning in 2025.
All of those factors have budget implications, she said.
“The whole purpose of that size of an adjustment ($12 million in cuts) was to stabilize where we are and be able to go forward. So I believe we’ve done that,” Curtis said.
Curtis also addressed the need for changes in higher education, including ISU. “There is clear evidence that higher education across the nation will not be returning to fall 2019 modes of operation,” she said.
Among the changes needed, ISU must teach in ways that are engaging and cutting edge; incorporate timely and accurate advising and design curriculum course schedules for 21st century students, she said.
New, often inter-disciplinary majors limited to 40 to 50 credit hours, and slimmer majors overall, would improve student success, retention and graduation rates and simplify scheduling and teaching demands, she said.
Going forward, ISU must pay attention to Indiana’s labor market and make sure it is preparing students for those careers that are in demand, Curtis said. Also important is the “slimming down of requirements in order to be more effective in students’ completing.”
A video of Curtis’ message to the university community is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ezk8ebtIgg
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue