MANSFIELD, PA— Facing budget deficits and funding
shortfalls projected for at least the next two years, Mansfield University is
finalizing plans to address the situation and ensure the sustainability of the
university and the quality of its academic programs.
MU faces a projected 14.3 million
dollar shortfall over the next two years.
“The university has been very
conservative in managing its resources,” Mansfield President Fran Hendricks
said. “However, we’ve experienced enrollment declines over the past three
years, mostly due to the declining number of high school students, as have most
other universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Add to
this the slower than expected economic recovery and reduced state
appropriations and we find ourselves facing very serious challenges.”
Tuition and fees are the university’s
primary source of revenue, so with the decline in enrollment and rise of costs
outside the university’s control, the administration is studying a variety of
ways to reduce costs and balance the budget, Hendricks said.
Plans currently call for as many as 29
regular, full-time faculty positions and more than 25 staff and administrative positions
to be eliminated. Discussions with the affected faculty, staff and departments to
be impacted will take place in the days ahead.
“These are difficult decisions
affecting people’s lives,” Hendricks said. “Those affected are all valuable to
the university but we also have an obligation to live within our means and
operate in a responsible manner. We will be looking to our faculty and staff to reinvent the
delivery of academic programs and ensure the continued quality of service and
support for students.”
Hendricks and the MU Cabinet have
engaged the campus community to discuss the situation and possible solutions in
a series of meetings, open forums and online discussions.
The student population decline
problem is compounded by a steady decrease in state funding. As expenses have
increased, the state’s appropriation for Mansfield University have decreased by
13.78% since 2008.
Hendricks stressed that the
university’s academic budget supporting instruction is separate from residence
and dining budgets which are billed to students based on actual costs.
Housing, he added, is managed by a
separate, nonprofit entity.
Working with the Mansfield Auxiliary
Corporation (MAC), MU has modernized its students housing and the university is
continuing to make improvements in other facilities.
The enrollment decline is a
reflection of the shrinking number of high school graduates in northern
Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York, Mansfield’s primary service
areas.This, Hendricks pointed out, has
intensified competition among colleges and universities for these students.
At the same time, he explained, MU
has a broad mix of academic programs and is in a better position than many
schools to adapt to changes and needs.
Several new programs based on regional workforce needs have been added
over the past few years.
Hendricks added, however, that it
doesn’t change the ongoing challenges of less state support and fewer eligible
“The next two years,” he said, “will
be among the most challenging in the university’s 156-year history.”