University could feel impact of COVID-19 for the next four years

Rhonda Wheeler, Editor-in-Chief

Steve Bridges, vice president of finance and administration, said the university could feel the impact of this semester for the next four years as the smaller freshman class works its way through the pipeline.

The Board of Trustees approved an operating budget of $113.9 million for the academic year today at the BOT meeting. The budget is for this fiscal year, which started five months ago.

This budget shows a $6.7 million reduction from last year’s operating budget because of a 7% reduction in state funding as well as decreases in enrollment and credit hour production. 

Enrollment and credit hour production are the two main sources of funding at the university.

The budget deficit was solved by not filling any open job positions, supply and expense reductions and not traveling.

“The university community has done a great job of pulling together this year to help overcome this budget shortfall,” Bridges said. “I am pleased to share with you that our strategies have been successful. The decision to not fill open positions has been necessary but we also realize it has been difficult and has caused additional strain in some areas.”

University President Ron Rochon also announced in the meeting he is creating a committee to address future budget needs. This committee will be made up of faculty, staff and administration.

“This will be a committee representative of our campus community and with transparency and long-term strength at the heart of its work,” Rochon said. “Among the goals of this committee will be returning to salary increases for employees, being good financial stewards of resources and aligning with our university strategic plan goals. It’s imperative that we make adjustments in order to be responsive to the ever-changing higher education landscape.”

Other things that were discussed in the meeting include:

  • Contact tracing can take between 40 minutes to four hours, sometimes nine hours depending on how many people someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has been around.
  • 1,400 students have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19.900 have been quarantined.
  • The Student Financial Assistance Office served over 12,000 enrolled and prospective students.
  • 71% of enrolled students received some type of aid.
  • 51% of students received federal and/or state aid.
  • President Rochon will present a proposal for the next budget to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
  • The BOT also approved candidates for conferral of degrees for Fall Commencement.

The next BOT meeting will be Jan. 14, 2021, but it is not known if it will be virtual or on campus.