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Slabach cuts through budget worries

With rumors spreading, tuition rising, and the recent change to the block rate spawning a student protest last week, students and faculty are looking for answers about Texas Wesleyan’s financial future.

After all, back in February, President Frederick Slabach announced at a town hall meeting that the university anticipates “having to cut $2.9 million from our operating budget for next year.”

“I think it scares people,” said Zahraa Saheb, former Student Government Association president. “The biggest thing that comes out of this for the students is the desire for transparency. Because students think, ‘We’re paying a lot towards this institution, where is that money going to? What is that money funding? What caused for this deficit to happen?’”

Slabach says people should not worry so much. Wesleyan is in a good financial position with domestic enrollment on the rise and several new or ongoing campus projects, such as April’s groundbreaking for the Nicholas and Lou Martin University Center.
The $2.9 million, he said in a recent interview, is not a deficit, but rather part of the annual process of balancing the university’s budget for the upcoming 2018-19 academic school year.

“Texas Wesleyan is completing its annual budget process for Fiscal Year 2019 (June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019),” Slabach wrote last week in an email. “This process began last fall as all academic and administrative units began assessing needs and making requests for increases in operating budget. At the same time, the university began calculating enrollment projections for next academic year.”

However, there is a projected reduction in revenue, which is why there are cuts being made.

“Every fall, every unit of academic administrative takes a look at its priorities and submits requests for additional funding to try and meet those priorities,” Slabach said. “We then look at our enrollment projections for the following year and make some calculations about what kind of revenue we think we’re going to have. Then we take a look at the priorities that have come forward and sometimes we’re just not able to fund some of those additional things that people want to do. Sometimes we say you know what it’s more important for us to do one of these new priorities then it is for some of the other things that we’re already doing.

“We go back and take a look at some other things that we’ve been doing and decide to make some cuts. It’s all just a part of a balancing act. In order to get there, if we want to include some new priorities or if we have a reduction in revenue then we have to look at other places to cut.”

Slabach wrote that the university has a reduction in revenue due to the decrease in international student enrollment.

“Although our domestic enrollment is increasing, our international enrollment is declining as some foreign governments that had financially sponsored their citizens to attend U.S. universities ended those programs and the overall number of foreign students wishing to study in the U.S. declined significantly for a variety of reasons,” Slabach wrote. “As a result, there is less revenue generated for our operating budget.”
Slabach said the $2.9 million is the amount in savings the university needs to make, and that the final decisions will be completed at the end of April.

“To achieve academic priorities, provide a modest cost of living salary pool for faculty and staff, and align the operating budget to revenue, the university will need to achieve expenditure savings of approximately $2.9 million in other parts of the budget and increase tuition for next year,” Slabach wrote.

Slabach said there will be a decrease in the adjunct budget for next year which could lead to some professors teaching some adjunct classes.

“There is not a hiring freeze for faculty and there is not a hiring freeze for administrative staff,” Slabach said. “What we’re asking is that anytime there is a vacancy is that each unit whether it is administrative department or a faculty department, that we look and see if we might be able to restructure things in such a way that we would be able to save money. All we’re asking is that we take the time to access whether or not we might be able to restructure to achieve financial efficiencies.”

Two of the changes for students next year are the rise in tuition and the decrease in block rate hours, Slabach wrote in an email sent out to the campus.
“For most private universities, including Texas Wesleyan, tuition increases tend to take place every year,” Slabach wrote. “This year’s change is different than in previous years because the Board’s decision also allows an adjustment to the number of hours included in our block tuition rate to a maximum of 16 hours (the previous block rate max was 18 hours).”

According to Slabach’s email, tuition and fees have increased to $30,300 for the 2018-19 academic year and $40,510 for those with housing and meal plans.

Students will also have to pay $1,010 for every additional credit hour they take after 16. However, SGA managed to get a waiver for students whose majors require more than 128 hours to graduate, Slabach said.

“The reason is that we are using the 128 hours is if you take 16 credit hours a semester for eight semester then you would be able to graduate in four years if your major required 128 hours or less,” Slabach said. “The vast majority of our majors do require 128 hours or less, but if you are in a major that requires more than 128 hours than it made sense that we would offer a waiver to the block cap.

“That was something I want to congratulate the students on, especially the Student Government Association. They were the ones that brought it to our attention that there was this group of students that are simply not able to graduate in four years with the kind of cap was in place. That’s a great function for the student government to play, and I really appreciate them doing that.”

SGA members Alison Baron, John Traxler, and Nicholas Davis created and promoted the block hour petition, SGA President Alyssa Hutchinson wrote in an email.

“Along with encouraging students to give letters on how they are effected by the change in block hour tuition, Administration has already responded with a waiver system for some of the majors effected by this change,” Hutchinson wrote. “We believe that this is proof that our voice can be heard, but that it is just one step closer to a compromise.”

Hutchinson wrote that she wants students to be able to voice their opposition since their voice wasn’t considered in the original decision. One of the ways SGA is helping to promote the conversation was organizing the student protest last Wednesday.

“We have held our first protest at the Board of Trustees meeting,” Hutchinson wrote. “We are working with President Slabach to hold a Forum for students to ask questions and express concerns. Also, Slabach will be attending our next General Business Meeting on April 6th.”

Slabach said he has been in communication with Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life Dennis Hall and plans to talk with students at meeting, which is 4 p.m. Friday in the SGA chambers.

“We are dedicated to our students’ success and the financial outlook for the university is positive,” Slabach wrote. “We will continue to emphasize recruitment and retention efforts to increase enrollment and focus on small class sizes averaging around 20 students per section.”

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