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All Options Considered as Clarion University Deals with Budget Shortfalls

Friday, August 9, 2013 @ 12:08 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Provost Ronald Nowaczyk CLARION, Pa. – All options are being considered as Clarion University deals with a projected $8 million deficit and a $500,000 cut in its annual budget, including possible retrenchment of faculty, furloughs of staff, cuts in staff and administrative positions, and decreases in athletic programs.

“Regarding our budget situation, the state assembly approved their allocation to PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) for this fiscal year, which started on July 1,” said Clarion University Provost and Academic Vice President Ronald Nowaczyk in a prepared statement saying all options are being considered.

“Clarion University will receive approximately $500,000 less this year than last year.  This reduction is due in large part to a loss in our traditional enrollment because of the continued decline of high school graduates in western Pennsylvania.”

“The PASSHE Board of Governors approved a 3 percent increase in tuition for this year, as well.  With the fall semester beginning (soon), we now have a clearer picture of our revenues across the university which continues to reflect a projected budget deficit of almost $8 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.”

The university is still reviewing any cuts in personnel or related actions, and no decisions have been made.  President Karen Whitney confirmed the changes that will be made will not impact students who attend Clarion this fall.

“In order to address the deficit and, more importantly, the long-term financial health and viability of the university,” said Nowaczyk, “the leadership team of the university has been engaged in a process of workforce planning and program assessment to identify areas of growth, areas needed to maintain the continuity of university operations, and areas that either need to be revitalized, reduced, or eliminated.”

The leadership team continues to focus on student demand and expectations in terms of areas of study and services, according to Nowaczyk.

Enrollment is expected to take another drop and will have an added impact on the budget situation. Nowaczyk described the enrollment as fluid and a projection is not available as the university continues to focus on new students who have not yet decided on a college, as well as returning students.

Clarion is projecting a decline in overall enrollment this fall because large classes of students that were admitted in 2008 to 2010 are graduating and being followed by smaller classes in the past two years, according to the official statement.

The university fact book states total headcount enrollment dropped from 7,315 in 2010-11 to 6,991 in 2011-12 and again in 2012-13, with a total of 6,520.

“While we are experiencing reductions in enrollment in some disciplines, others, including business, science, and the health sciences, continue to grow,” continued Nowaczyk.

Over the past two years, Clarion University’s decline in enrollment has been felt most in the field of education.  

Members of the leadership team conducting the workforce planning and program assessment since May include the president, provost, vice president of finance and administration, vice president for student affairs, and associate vice president for finance and administration.  Leaders of the various employee bargaining units have not been involved in the process, but Nowaczyk said they are being advised on the status of the process via regular meetings with the president.

It is not believed that the current budget situation will have any effect on the planned student housing project along East Main Street, replacing Nair and Wilkinson Halls.  That project is financed by the Clarion University Foundation, Inc., as a stand-along project.  Similar to funding arrangements for Reinhard Villages and two suite-housing buildings on campus, the new project will rely on payment of the debt and operations solely from student housing fees paid to live in the new suite projects.

Nowaczyk confirmed that he met with state APSCUF leadership, along with the associate vice president for finance and administration and members of the chancellor’s Office of Labor Relations, to discuss the status of the university’s workforce plans, as required by the collective bargaining unit.

“With the many discussions and the deep financial and operational analysis that are currently underway, we are not yet at a point to present definitive actions at this time.  I am very optimistic that with our process that is currently underway, we will reach decisions prior to the start of the fall 2013 semester on what actions are appropriate to address our structural deficit.”

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