The budget proposal, which requires legislature approval, allocates $297.6 million for public and higher education needs in an effort aimed at achieving the administration’s goal of 66 percent of Utahns with a college degree or certificate by 2020.
For students attending UVU, that may not matter much. The university is receiving less of its budget from the state, according to an independent survey commissioned by the Utah System of Higher Education. The study also indicates UVU is last among state institutions in terms of the percentage of state funds received for their operating budget, meaning Wolverines pay a higher portion of their education than their peers attending other Utah colleges.
Val Peterson, vice president of finances at Utah Valley, said he doesn’t like the distribution of state money. He points to higher enrollment numbers that UVU has in comparison to the allocation of funding with other schools, revealed in the USOHE survey. In 2011, the university had 33,294 enrolled, top in the state, and yet remained at the bottom of state funding percentage at 38.8 percent. This year enrollment is at 31,556, 2nd in the state, and still UVU sits at the bottom of funding with 38 percent.
Snow College, with an enrollment of approximately 3,200 students, is No. 1 on the funding list with 68 percent of its budget set aside by the state legislature.
“It’s not the legislature’s fault,” said Greg Souffer of the Utah State Office of Higher Education. Souffer says Utah Valley University joins a statewide trend of tightening on funds for all campuses.
“A national trend is showing for the first time,” Stouffer said. “Student tuition is a larger portion of funding than government, 51 to 49 percent.”
Souffer explains that the shortage in government funds comes from a combination of three to four years of steady enrollment increases with shrinking state budgets in a recession-laden economy.
UVU leadership is working to remedy the financial shortfall. President Holland has redirected 25 percent of his time specifically to the procurement of private funding, Peterson said.
The president is dealing primarily with donors linked to projects, like the Wee Care Center, which is being built with $3 million in private funds. The university is also looking for more out-of-state donors and those tied to the school, such as alumni, to fill the financial gap.
If the governor’s budget is approved by the legislature, there are other factors that will likely create financial uncertainties. Congress approved a temporary measure to avoid the federal ‘fiscal cliff’ budget crisis last week on Jan. 1 and may see another showdown in a few months, which means possible budget cuts in the near future.