ALAMOSA — Facing a $2-million shortfall in 2013, Adams State University is already making budget cuts.
“We are looking at a $2-million problem we have got to solve,” said Bill Mansheim, vice president, Office of Finance and Governmental Relations for ASU.
He said on Wednesday the college’s first step was to cut everybody’s travel by 10 percent this year and 20 percent next year.
“We have already enacted that,” he said.
In addition, as personnel vacancies open up, ASU administration will evaluate those positions to determine if they have to be filled or if they can remain vacant to reduce the budget.
“As opportunities present themselves and different positions come open we have an evaluation tool to determine if it makes sense to keep that position vacant,” Mansheim explained. “In some cases we just can’t do that.”
If vacated positions can remain open or frozen in the next several months, Adams State will realize some savings earlier, Mansheim said, but the majority of the cuts will occur after July 1, 2013, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Mansheim said ASU would have to cut $1 million in personnel and $500,000 in operating expenses in the 2013-2014 budget.
“That’s what we are working on now. It’s tough.”
He said ASU administrators have been meeting weekly to work on this problem. As soon as they saw the fall enrollment numbers, they began to plan for inevitable budget cuts.
Several factors precipitated the current budget issues for the university, according to Mansheim.
One major factor has been reduced state funding over the last four or five years.
In 2008-2009 Adams State received $14 million annually in state support. Currently the university only receives $10 million. Next fiscal year, beginning in July, ASU will receive an increase of $648,000 from the state if the governor’s recommendations are followed, but that does not make up for the $4 million lost annually in state support in recent years.
Mansheim said until this fall, when enrollment dropped slightly, the university was able to make up some of the state funding shortfalls with increased student enrollment.
“We have had unbelievable enrollment growth that’s helped us during the last four to five years,” he said. “This last fall our enrollment leveled off and actually went down just a little bit.”
A portion of the enrollment decreases can be attributed to changes in federal PELL grant eligibility and calculations, which have forced some students to quit school because they could no longer afford it. PELL eligibility now includes a lifetime cap of six years after which students cannot receive additional aid.
“We lost a number of students who were working and going to school part time that were working towards degrees but now no federal aid is available for them so they are not going to be able to attend,” Mansheim said.
“We repackaged as many of those as we could with our institutional funds but there’s not enough there.”
PELL also changed the way family financial support is calculated so fewer students qualify for the full PELL grants so they are not able to take as many credit hours.
‘We have been able to offset those cuts with enrollment growth and some tuition increases, and we have also used some of our savings, our reserves, to get us through so we don’t have to put it all on the backs of our students,” Mansheim said. “We have drawn down our reserves now so we have to cut some expenses.”
He added, “It’s hard. It’s painful, but it’s something we have got to face. We can’t put it all on the backs of our students but they are still going to see some tuition increases. There’s just no avoiding it.”