March 19, 2010
Following months of deliberations by senior administrators and two public forums involving the broader campus community, the Ball State Board of Trustees voted March 19 to enact plans trimming the university's budget by $15.2 million during the next 15 months.
The reductions are in answer to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' call—in the face of declining tax revenue brought about by the current economic recession—for the state's seven public universities to cut a total of $150 million from their budgets for the remainder of the current biennium.
The budget-cutting steps approved by members of Ball State's board follow the proposals laid out by Randall Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer, during the last of the public forums with students, faculty, staff and service personnel on March 16. They include changes in employee benefits, particularly in the areas of health care, which are expected to result in savings of roughly $7.8 million.
Howard and President Jo Ann M. Gora long have emphasized that significant reductions in Ball State's budget cannot be achieved without adjustments in employee benefits, which together with salaries command approximately 76 percent of the university's overall budget.
Since 2009, the university has relied upon a hiring "slowdown" to help contain some of these costs. Last year, there was no additional funding authorized for pay raises.
Howard explained that the slowdown remains in effect as part of the university's budget reduction efforts.
Meanwhile, new or amended fees should produce an estimated $1.8 million in fresh revenue for the university, said Howard. Most notably, Housing and Dining will pay a 1-percent-of-revenue fee to the general fund for partial reimbursement of administrative support. Because the Housing and Dining systems will realize savings associated with many of the actions being taken, they should be able to absorb the fee without passing it on to students. The board acted to increase the undergraduate application fee from $25 to $50, revise the graduate credit hour fee to $30 per credit hour, and establish a graduation application fee of $25.
The balance of the required savings will come from a variety of measures including improved energy conservation, better print management practices, increased use of free and/or open source software and reductions in certain non-instructional areas such as the number of general computer labs on campus. The university will, as well, continue to seek greater efficiencies in staffing and structure while also pursuing additional revenue-generating opportunities.
While acknowledging that current economic conditions have placed Ball State administrators and employees in the uncomfortable position of having to make and live with such cuts, Gora said she is heartened greatly by the spirit of cooperation in evidence throughout the process.
"This is an institution that talks a lot about collaboration in the pursuit of real-world solutions to real-world problems," said Gora. "Mostly, that has to do with our academic focus on immersive learning. This situation, however, demonstrates that attitude is, in fact, far more sweeping, embraced not only by students and faculty but by everyone engaged in making Ball State absolutely the best university it can be.
"From the outset of this challenging and sometimes difficult task, we were committed to three primary goals: preserving the educational experience of our students, maintaining the momentum behind implementation of our strategic plan and recognizing that people—our thousands of dedicated and hardworking employees—are the key to our success. That we have been able to achieve these ends without undue rancor or recriminations is testament both to the outstanding work of those charged with developing these proposals and the shared sense of community and common purpose that allowed—indeed, encouraged—so many to offer their ideas and suggestions. As Gov. Daniels himself said during his visit to campus earlier this week, 'Well done!'"