HSU Plans for Long-Term Fiscal Health

Humboldt State University is developing a long-term plan to restore the institution to sound fiscal footing which will require major structural changes and realignments.

“This year, we reduced our budgets by $2 million,” President Rollin Richmond said. “It will be very tough next year as further cuts will be necessary, but I see a stronger institution on the other side of this process.”

“I hope we will come together as a campus to solve these problems in a collaborative way,” Dr. Richard Vrem, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs said. “It is imperative that we put our financial house in order. Each area of the campus must be willing to creatively review its practices with the goal of reducing expenditures while maintaining a high quality educational experience for our students.”

Richmond noted that severe fiscal pressures stem from multiple external factors that have emerged over the last few years and are beyond HSU’s control. They include cuts in state funding, escalating utility and insurance costs, and a change in the California State University (CSU) system’s funding formula.

There are other factors: mandatory increases in salary and benefits; enrollment reductions; and a CSU policy that requires member campuses to refund money when enrollment projections are not met. While HSU welcomed its largest freshman class in history this year, it fell short of the overall enrollment projection.

The pressures are unlikely to diminish in the near future. “Major structural changes will be required to achieve lasting fiscal health and position the University for growth over the long-term,” Richmond stated.

Turning to the specifics of his initiative, Richmond said, “I plan to consult broadly with the campus community. Our University Budget Committee is reviewing its own membership and the President has asked them to be more deliberate in addressing proposed budget reductions. In addition, there will be a campus meeting with faculty, staff and students on Monday, October 30th from 4-5 p.m. in Van Duzer Theatre. It is important that we begin the process of budget evaluation with a shared understanding of why we are in this situation and what options exist for a solution. A Web site has also been created that will house information about the budget reduction process.” Additional information will be posted to this Web site.

HSU Vice Presidents have also been asked to conduct a thorough review of their respective divisions, using similar comparative data from other CSU campuses as a baseline. An outside consultant will gather objective information and fresh insights to help identify potential cost savings.

The findings of the multiple reviews will then be used to establish conservative budgets for Fiscal Year 2007-2008 by March 30, 2007.

The effects of the budget issues are already being seen on campus in the scheduling of spring classes. HSU is reducing the number of class sections and increasing the class size of others, with the intent of providing approximately the same number of seats for students as last spring. “However, it is critical to note that even after these changes, HSU should still have one of the lowest student-faculty ratios in the California State University system,” said Provost Vrem. Specifically, last spring two percent of HSU’s standard class sections were above 70 students. This spring six percent will be above 70. “It is important to put this into context. We will have about 1600 standard class sections. Approximately 90 of those will have seats for more than 70 students,” said Vrem. “As fiscal realities force us to offer more large class sections, maintaining the quality and personal nature of the HSU learning experience remains a high priority.”

Another aspect of the structural budget realignment and a painful one for the campus community is resulting layoffs. Two layoffs at the management level occurred earlier this month. Another management employee and a staff member have been laid off this week. Two additional staff this week received duty reassignments. Some lecturers will see a reduction in their time base during the spring semester.

“This will not be an easy process,” the President acknowledged. “It is likely that additional positions will be eliminated. We will have to change how we operate, but we have a responsibility to this fine institution, to our current and future students, to our supportive alumni and donors, to the taxpayers of the state of California, and to future generations of Californians to make difficult decisions today, so that HSU continues to be a quality, affordable, and financially stable institution for decades to come. I am convinced that our work during the next six months will transform Humboldt State into a much stronger University, poised to enter its second century with ambitious and realizable dreams.”

For more information, contact Jane Rogers, Director, HSU Public Affairs, at 707/826-5112 or jr56@humboldt.edu.