Holland met Friday, Feb. 8, with the Higher Education Apropriations Subcommittee during their legislative session to address the lack of equity funding and compensation from the state for teachers and administrators in an effort to stymie the possible shortfall in revenue.
“We’re not just here to say ‘we’re not doing anything, we expect you to bail us out,’ we’re working as hard as we know how to work,” Holland said as he addressed the committee members on Friday. “We are just so down to the bone in terms of things we’re able to accomplish.”
The major problem, according to Holland, is the counter-cyclical nature of education. He said when the economy is down, students go back to school while at the same time the legislation doesn’t have the means to offer support. As UVU has grown since becoming a university, it hasn’t received the proper amount of funding to help with the increase of student body.
The lack of equity funding is a historic one at the university. When UVU was granted university status, the school was given $10 million from the state to operate at a higher level. Then in 2008, only a year later, the state saw major budget cuts in funding and the university lost most of that money, money that UVU has done without ever since.
“UVU’s right in the heart of my district and so I have a vested passion for the equity funding,” said Dana Layton, representative for Orem’s District 60. “It’s essentially a tax on the students and the people in Utah County. We pay the same taxes as everybody else, but our kids who go to UVU pay a higher percentage of their tuition, and I’d really like to see that corrected.”
With equity funding and fair compensation still tied up in legislation, the administration is currently looking at how the school can tighten its belt across the board. Officials have already entered a hiring chill that could last until enrollment picks up again, but this also leads to an evaluation of current positions.
“We’re almost certainly going to have some cost-reduction strategies moving forward, and so we’ve put people on notice that that’s the case,” Holland said. “We’ll do everything humanly possible to protect our productive human assets and our personnel, but we’ll be looking at lots of things as we move forward on how we can close this gap.”
The drop in admissions is the most obvious cause of the shortfall, and to combat it the obvious solution seems to be adjusting tuition costs. While the first tier tuition rate is set by the board of regents, the second tier will be decided on the university level. Administration will have to wait for that first tier price to be set before any decisions are made, but right now they’re predicting a possible one to five percent jump in second tier tuition.
“As much as I hate to raise tuition any farther, it will be a useful thing to us to mitigate against that shortfall we’ll be facing,” Holland said. “We’ve got a balancing act between doing that and working as hard as we can to keep tuition as low as possible for our students.”
As all this news comes the same week that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that the wolverine be placed on the endangered species list. The administration moves forward trying not to see that as a metaphor.