On Nov. 6, Portland State President Wim Wiewel wrote a letter to the PSU community acknowledging the $15 million expected deficit in the university’s funding for the next two years and asking for input on the university’s budgeting plans.
In his letter, President Wiewel announced his hope for a university-wide conversation about the long-term future of the university’s revenue. This includes a budget feedback form available for students and faculty to fill out online.
“This is a great way to get creative ideas about new sources of revenues, or possible areas of budget reduction, that we would not know about otherwise,” Wiewel said in an email. “It also gives us a sense of whether there are current activities and programs whose value is questioned by people.”
Due to various subsidies, health care and flat enrollment, the cost of education is becoming more expensive not only to students but to the university as well.
Scott Gallagher, director of communications at PSU, said 20 years ago the state was supporting over two-thirds of the university’s revenue. It now supports less than 12 percent, creating a large increase in tuition’s impact on the budget.
The state of Oregon essentially brought down tuition increases, lowering tuition this year by 3.5 percent, but this has no effect on the budget because there’s still the same amount of revenue with no increase.
To solve this issue, six areas are being considered for financial amendments. These include administrative restructuring, academic priorities, energy and real estate savings, student services savings and efficiencies, staff and benefit savings and other areas involving athletics and public safety. President Wiewel wants the community’s opinion on the details of what they feel is beneficial and what isn’t.
“Often budget rebalancing is done by across the board cuts. The way we are doing it now is more strategic, which means some activities will be reduced more, or eliminated entirely, so that the most important ones can continue to thrive,” Wiewel said. “Faculty, staff and students have a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t. This allows us to tap into that.”
The Finance and Administration site has already received feedback.
In a letter sent out by President Wiewel on Nov. 25, he stated that PSU’s Executive Committee has already made some decisions regarding the budget.
“Unrepresented unclassified administrators and staff earning an annual salary of $100,000 or more will not receive general pay increases in 2013-14 and 2014-15,” Wiewel said. “This will save approximately $860,000 over two years, which allows us to maintain critical academic programs and reduce the number of potential layoffs.”
Wiewel also said in his letter that no decisions have been made “regarding salary increases for unrepresented staff who earn less than $100,000 annually.”
He went on to say that salaries and benefits make up 81 percent of PSU’s annual budget.
Ideas will continue to be reviewed and some may even be put into action immediately, while others will take further revision and discussion into the winter quarter. President Wiewel clarifies the process of this review.
“It’s the job of the Executive Committee, and ultimately me as president, to weigh all the pros and cons of specific ideas, and think carefully about possible consequences that may not be clear to everyone,” Wiewel said. “It’s hard to get consensus about budget cuts, because people naturally want to protect their own areas.”
This efforft is being rolled out as a part of reTHINK PSU.
Sona Andrews, the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs as well as head of the reTHINK initiative, described in an email where these projects came from and the benefits they have already revealed.
“The genesis for reTHINK PSU came from President Wiewel wanting to make certain that PSU was being responsive to changes in pedagogy and delivery and that PSU continued to provide access to a diverse population of students at an affordable cost,” Andrews said. “The conversations, plans and actions by the faculty have been robust. The benefit to students is already being seen in some of the initiatives that have been launched—4 year graduation guarantee and the increase in online courses.”
Gallagher explained the future of this initiative by President Wiewel.
“There’s going to be a lot more to come, including a series of ongoing discussion to focus on [the six] categories,” Gallagher said. “We don’t do [financial decisions] in the background; it is transparent to the community.”
PSU’s Executive Committee will be posting regular updates to the budget plan and will be holding a campus town hall meeting during winter term for students, faculty and staff to attend.
Check out the budget feedback form online at pdx.edu/fadm/budget-feedback-form.