POCATELLO — As Idaho State University grapples with a $12 million shortfall, partly a result of a 35 percent decline in students from the Middle East, employee layoffs aren’t off the table.
When asked if layoffs are possible, ISU spokesman Stuart Summers said the university “is exploring all factors that go into preparing a balanced budget.”
“There are still a number of factors that need to be considered, including the State Board of Education meeting in April, where student tuition and fees will be determined,” Summers said. “ISU is tightening the belt, and we feel confident that we’ll prepare a budget that maintains our high level of education for students.”
Summers added that since January, each individual division — both academic and administrative — have been in the process of preparing budget proposals for the next fiscal year.
The ISU Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment Council (IEAC) will review each respective proposal and determine how they will aggregately affect the university’s comprehensive plan.
“The IEAC will then provide those recommendations to President (Arthur) Vailas,” Summers said. “It’s too early to speculate on scenarios, but we will continue to communicate with the campus community as we move through the process. ISU is currently working through the budgetary planning process, and no final decisions have been made.”
ISU Executive Vice President and Provost Laura Woodworth-Ney said in a written statement on Monday that the university will consider employee curtailments through the budgetary process only if all other solutions prove inadequate.
“Our units have worked very hard to achieve a budget that will support the university’s goals and programs, despite current constraints,” she said. “We are working through the budget process, and any layoffs and reductions to personnel will be a last resort. ISU will make its budget recommendation to the state board in June.”
During a campus-wide faculty forum in October, Woodworth-Ney said that the university doesn’t expect any layoffs and the temporary hold on open faculty positions is not a hiring freeze.
Furthermore, Woodworth-Ney said in October that to avoid layoffs, the university could potentially dip into reserve funds, which, excluding obligated and designated funds from the $109.5 million total, was about $35.7 million last March.
Potential layoffs are not a problem faced only by ISU, however, with many schools across the country preparing for revenue shortfalls stemming from declining enrollment.
A labor union representing the faculty of the University of Oregon reported the university is considering a plan to lay off 75 nontenured faculty members, and Saint Louis University, which anticipates deficits of $10 million to $20 million through 2018, plans to lay off 120 employees and will eliminate 130 staff and administrative positions that are currently vacant.
Anticipating budget cuts of more than $3.5 million, Tennessee Technological University, which has an undergraduate population within 1,100 students to ISU’s undergraduate enrollment, recently saved more than $900,000 by laying off 19 employees earlier this week.
Meanwhile, faced with a $150 million budget deficit, the University of California, Berkeley has been grappling with how to break news to faculty about the need for significant spending and staffing cuts for more than a year now.
Just recently, UC Berkeley officials approved spending more than $400,000 to hire an outside public relations agency “to address media and stakeholder backlash.”
Despite knowing exactly how ISU will address its revenue shortfall, several faculty from different units have voiced concerns regarding potential layoffs.
Summers said it’s premature to determine if ISU will use employee layoffs or hiring freezes as a fix-all to the shortage, and that any final decisions will come after the state legislature decides how much state appropriated funding ISU will receive and any changes to student tuition and fees.
For the state budget year starting July 1, ISU requested $151.5 million in state general fund money. ISU’s state allocation for the 2017 state fiscal year ending June 30 is $148.1 million.
Agenda materials for the April 19-20 board meeting in Moscow are due by March 17.
“The state legislature has not finalized their budget, which will have a direct effect on ISU,” Summers said. “Any proposed tuition and fee increases will be presented to the State Board of Education during its April meeting, which will also impact ISU budgets.”