Caught in the budget cycle

Up and down student population means up and down budget

The largest problem with the university’s growth may be the lack of money available. Unfortunately, one of the problems with the money available is the growth. This conundrum has put the administration in a bit of a bind.

With the economy continuing in a recession, the amount of money available in the state of Utah has decreased. With less money for the state, Utah Valley University, along with all the other higher education institutions, will continue taking budget hits. But the complication comes when one looks deeper into the issue.

Linda Makin, the chief planning, budget and policy officer at UVU, is working to get money from the state and trying to plan for the future if UVU doesn’t get any extra money.

“We are a lean, mean, educating machine,” Makin said. “We are known for a quality experience. We would want to get a better staff, more staff with more experience.”

UVU runs its core operations with two main sources of income: tuition and state funding. If the school loses any amount of income from state funding, tuition may go up again.

Right now, tuition pays for 58 percent with the remaining 42 paid for by state funding. In 2001, it was closer to 61 percent paid by the state and it was still over 50 percent in 2008.

The recently proposed budget would force a 7 percent cut on the state funding of UVU, which is about average across the Utah public schools. Makin, along with others at UVU, will go to the next session of legislation in an effort to get some of the money back. “We are looking to get back to full price, not to get more money,” Makin said.

When compounded with the fact that UVU is growing faster than any other school, it makes the actual budget deficit bigger than for any other school. It would be a 39 percent smaller budget than in the 2007 school year.

UVU accounted for nearly half of the growth in the higher education system. The increase of 3,905 students was 1,600 more than the University of Utah, which had the next highest amount.

The budget is figured out historically in a certain sense. The state doesn’t look long term, but only over the last few years. The problem that arises is when unemployment goes up, so does enrollment, but the state budget goes down.

The economy eventually recovers and school enrollment stabilizes. With new elections, the legislation turns over and the new legislative officers look at the current numbers. They see school population stagnating and assume the school can continue on the same amount of money.

“We see the cycle and it concerns us,” Makin said. “It continues to push the 42 percent lower and lower.”

Higher education is not a mandatory part of the budget and it gets lost in the shuffle of other issues in legislation. Makin adds that it’s hard to try to fix the budget right now because the government doesn’t have the money. Makin gave advice for students looking to help fix the problem. “Students need to write their local representatives and tell them we need [higher education] for our future… Whether supporting UVU or just higher education in general, they need to make their voices heard.”

Makin wanted to make sure everyone knew that regardless of these cuts and the lower numbers, the school is grateful for all that the state has done. “When [the economy] was good, they gave us $10 million for university status and a library.” She only hopes such a budget boon is still possible.

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