by Shelby Harding
President Beck Taylor announced a string of proposed budget cuts for the 2015 fiscal year last week. The announced budget cuts determined by the President’s Advisory Task Force on Financial Sustainability were finalized Feb. 12, and includes the suspension of the Costa Rica Center for the 2014-15 school year, with the exception of Jan Term, a financial overhaul of health services provided at the student Health Center and reducing the student printing allocation by 50 percent, among other cuts, reductions and financial restructuring.
The savings plan includes Whitworth employees contributing $15 per month to their health care premiums, eliminating a custodial position after the planned retirement of one of the custodial staff, reducing the number of publications printed on campus and financial restructuring of Academic Affairs and Institutional Advancement.
It also includes reducing staff for capital projects, the department responsible for overseeing expansion and the construction of new buildings on campus.
The capital projects manager left Whitworth in December for another job, leaving the position vacant in the time the President’s Advisory Task Force was determining savings, Taylor said. That position will remain vacant.
The budget shortfall was announced in October 2013. The current budget shortfall stands at $1.34 million.
The President’s Advisory Task Force assigned to reducing the budget shortfall spent four months discussing possible cuts with the board of trustees, university council members and the president’s cabinet, and approved a finalized draft plan in February.
“This is the ‘shadow price’ of stabilizing undergraduate enrollment,” Taylor said.
The stabilization of the amount of incoming undergraduate students has made an impact on the budget as well. By not increasing the number of incoming students, the budget had to be adjusted to anticipate the stalling of growth, Taylor said.
The budget was further impacted by a shortage of incoming students for the 2013-14 school year and an increased amount of financial aid given to that freshman class.
The increase in financial aid for the freshman class of 2013-14 is included in the budget for the next three years, as well as for the incoming freshman class of 2014-15.
Whitworth’s study abroad center in Costa Rica faces the biggest budget cut.
Before the center is reopened, financial restructuring and ensuring that the Costa Rica Center provides the best educational experience for the investment must happen, Taylor said. Whitworth employees currently in Costa Rica would be relocated to Spokane and return to Whitworth, Taylor said.
The Health Center is also facing financial restructuring; administrators are considering instituting a one-time health care fee for students, discontinuing Whitworth-provided insurance, and outsourcing health care services.
The adjustments would reduce spending by $250,000. Currently, students can receive treatment and consultation free of charge. Students had the option of purchasing health insurance directly through Whitworth, but will not be able to do so starting next year due to health care reform, Taylor said.
Students would have to pay a mandatory one-time fee of $120-240, Taylor said. Even a student with health insurance would still have to pay the fee.
Some students, such as freshman Alex Siefe, do not look favorably upon the idea of charging students for using the on-campus Health Center.
“I think it’s a little wrong to charge so much to go to the Health Center, especially for those who don’t have access to a car to see a doctor off campus if they have the flu or another illness,” Siefe said.
Other students believe that a one-time charge could be beneficial.
“If it is a one-time thing at the start of the year, then I think it would be highly beneficial because instead of paying $2,000 for Whitworth health insurance, then it would decrease the amount of required cost from students,” freshman Hannes Krahn said.
“It allows us to think what services we want to provide on campus and decide what the most critical things to access are,” Taylor said.
An additional fee for the next school year will not come as a surprise to students.
“We have a larger budget, compared to other support services that students are offered,” Director of Health Services Kristiana Holmes said. “Because of the budget, the university is looking for some larger dollar items to make up for the deficit.”
Dylan Olson, senior and lead health advocate, said that if the Health Center were to be outsourced to a third party, his position would no longer exist, and health advocates would no longer be able to work at the Health Center.
A 4 percent increase in tuition covers inflation and various rising costs across campus, such as transportation and other resources, as well as some money to reinvest in quality initiatives across campus, Taylor said. The 4 percent increase in tuition is the lowest tuition increase in 13 years and includes a 1.25 percent increase in pay for faculty.
“Our greatest resource on campus are people. We need to provide for their families and help them meet to just meet the cost-of-living increase,” Taylor said.
A 50 percent cut in the printing allocation for students is planned, reducing the student printing allowance from 500 pages a semester to 250 pages. It is not just about saving money, but environmental stewardship, Taylor said.
The transition toward a paperless campus will save about $25,000 in 2015.
“I, myself, need to print things all the time and find myself running out of money to print things. If anything, they should increase the amount of money that students get for the printing budget,” Krahn said.
Contact Shelby Harding at email@example.com