QU cleans house while forging ahead

Olian says strategic priorities will continue as planned despite budget cuts

By on September 18, 2019

The $3.2 million slash to the budget is a good opportunity to clean house and reassess priorities at Quinnipiac University, according to President Judy Olian and other administrators.

The university asked deans and other unit heads to reduce their budgets for this year because of an enrollment shortfall.

“The question is, would you make the choice to continue investing in everything that you’ve been doing for the last 10, 20, 30 years if it doesn’t feed into the future?” Olian said.

Olian said the $3.2 million in cuts will not be affecting students but rather university spending in the “margins.”

“Everything about the budget cuts is really at the margin and there was nothing, and I emphasize nothing, that is being withdrawn from the student-focused or student-centric services that we’re delivering,” Olian said.

The budget cuts, which make up 3.93% of the operating budget, are a result of a significant shortfall in enrollment for class of 2023. Deans across the university are in the process of making decisions about what will be cut in their schools. Executive Vice President and Provost Jennifer Brown said she has been reviewing the deans’ decisions and sees a few patterns in which areas have been cut.

“I can tell you this afternoon as I have been gathering and collating the offered budget reductions from the various schools and vice presidents, mostly what I’m seeing are reductions in part-time faculty who will not be as necessary given the reduced number of students we have to teach,” Brown said.

Brown also said many of the cuts she has seen in the offered budget reductions are related to membership dues for outside organizations, software, travel, lodging and catering.

Olian also mentioned assessing academic programs to see if there are any with low enrollment. Eliminating an unpopular minor, for example, would allow faculty resources to be redirected elsewhere.

“The question is, can some faculty and programs be redirected into those areas if enrollments are very low in other parts?” Olian said. “We would look at enrollments and expertise and where students are headed for careers.”

Brown said one program under consideration is a graduate medical program that she estimated had only four students enrolled.

Olian said “several thousand” dollars of the cuts will come from athletics.

While hiring for offices and schools across campus is “frozen,” the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Development will continue to spend money in hopes of increasing enrollment and philanthropy.

Brown said work on the strategic plan will continue because the university’s forward momentum is important.

“If this current year we asked some professors not to travel or to travel less than they otherwise would have, that has a very short-term, relatively small impact this year,” Brown said. “But if we put a halt to the kind of thinking we are doing about how to support students here– I do believe that health and wellness center is an important part of supporting student life at Quinnipiac — I think that would be a big mistake. To put a halt to that would be to lose time and lose forward momentum on something that will benefit hundreds, thousands of students.”

Olian said that the health center will be a comprehensive facility. The scoping for the facility will be done in October and estimated costs will follow.

“The wellness center isn’t just a physical fitness center, which it will be,” Olian said. “It will be a counseling center. It will be a center for medical consultation — and we know that counseling is a big, big need — but also be programming space where we want our students, our faculty and staff to have the opportunity to develop healthy living styles, healthy wellbeing for the rest of their lives.”

The shortfall in enrollment, while larger than expected, might give the university to reassess its priorities Olian said.

“I’ve heard from some people who say we like it, that there are a few fewer students– a few hundred fewer – first-year students on campus because we were getting too crowded,” Olian said. “So we need to ask the question of what’s the right size of the institution?”

Olian explained that smaller classes would mean less need for faculty resources.

“You need less part-time faculty if you have far fewer students because there are fewer sections at the freshman level,” Olian said. “What we made a choice of is to have more full-time faculty. That’s why we hired 18 full time faculty in arts and sciences and communications.”

Brown, however, said the university doesn’t actually need to get smaller to be more selective.

“We might see that our applicant pool increases and we can be just as selective this year as we were last year and actually get a larger group of students,” Brown said. “Alternatively we end up giving the same number of offers of admissions this year as we did last year, maybe our yield on those offers goes up because people see ‘Wow, there is some exciting stuff happening at Quinnipiac.’”

The ‘exciting stuff’ comes with a cost, and the especially small class size isn’t helping the effort. Olian said she will be tapping into the university’s endowment as well as ramping up fundraising to pay for the strategic initiatives.

“There’s a principal of the endowment and there’s endowment returns and we never touch the principal,” Olian said. “The endowment returns are now being used for projects that are typically one-time facilities.”

These facilities include updated labs in Tator Hall and new physical therapy labs on the fourth floor of the health sciences building on the North Haven campus.

Emily DiSalvo | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Bernadette Mele, president of the faculty senate, emphasized that the cuts will not impact the students because faculty will bear most of the effect, even though the true effect is still unknown.

“We are still trying to get a more clear picture on what the financial situation is and what effects the cuts are going to have on the faculty, and we are going to do our best to minimize the effects on the students,” Mele said.

Mele said she did not know exactly how the smaller class size will affect the budget in future years, but acknowledged that the university will have to adapt to the smaller income from tuition.

“It’s going to affect us for the next few years because that was the incoming class and they had an enrollment shortfall,” Mele said.

Instead, Mele said Quinnipiac’s new partnership with Gateway Community College could be one way to bring students to Quinnipiac.

“While higher education is struggling to be able to get students in, I think making the partnerships with the community colleges will help to benefit us,” Mele said. “It will take time, but I think it will benefit us in that manner.”

Olian said the Board of Trustees is making sacrifices this year to make up for the shortfall.

“We’re having a move of our board retreat from Florida to the campus,” Olian said. “Going to Florida is important for all kinds of development reasons, but in this budget year, we’re choosing to hold the same retreat on campus and save money.”

Olian said the budget cuts are not something she would consider telling the student body about because they are insignificant compared to the progress the university is making in other areas.

“We are at unprecedented levels of investments in the student experience, like they’ve never been done before,” Olian said. “I can rattle off all kinds of things. With a budget as large as ours smaller budget cuts are not things that we go to the students with unless it directly impacts them.”

Mele said there are many aspects of the budget that remain unclear.

“I wish I had more answers related to those numbers and what the actual budget cuts mean to the students,” Mele said. “Everything is happening to the point where we are doing our best to minimize what the students feel in the end.”

Comments

About Emily DiSalvo