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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Town Hall Forum Discusses Budget

On Wednesday, May 9, 2017, a town hall forum was held in the University Hall auditorium. This town hall was an informational session for members of the University of Massachusetts Boston community to be informed about what is going on with the institution, including the budget. This was indeed needed after all the news stories that has been circulating over the last few weeks.
The forum featured presentations by the Deputy Chancellor Barry Mills. The speakers included the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance, Kathleen Kirleis; Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, Lisa Johnson; Associate Provost and Dean of Faculty, Emily McDermott; and the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Marie Bowen.
Deputy Chancellor Mills started off the forum by praising the work the chancellor, administrators, and other faculty and staff have done so far. He also assured the audience that no other university does what UMass Boston does, while emphasizing the need for us all to work together to get out of the high waters we are in.
“Despite the fact that we seem to be the flavor of the day in the ‘Boston Globe,’ this is a remarkable place,” said Mills.
Kathleen Kirleis spoke about the current financial situation. In her presentation, she gave the UMass Boston community a preview of the budget for fiscal year 2018. The operating budget for the year 2017 (adopted from the board of Trustees as of July 2016), showed that enrollment for the year is at 17,085. Kirleis’ presentation showed that UMass Boston’s revenue is $431.9 million dollars and the expenditure is at $429.6 million dollars.
The term operating margin was talked about a lot in the presentation. This is a measure of an institution’s financial health, and it indicates how much revenue is left after operating expenses are considered. The operating margin has been in negatives since fiscal year 2015 when it was at -0.8 and is projected to be -1.6 percent for the current fiscal year.
The operating margin in dollars is $2.3 million, and in percentage it is 0.50 percent.
Since the fiscal year 2014 to present, enrollment has increased, but saw a decrease in Fall 2017. This decrease in enrollment has had negative impacts on the budget, as it means less money is being made from enrollment, particularly tuition and fees. When enrollment went down, as you can expect, the revenue also went down, but the expenses increased. With the construction of new buildings and cost overruns, the expenses were more than the revenues.
Since UMass Boston is operating at a surplus, plans are being made and some changes are on their way. For fiscal year 2018, there is a projected budget deficit of $29.1 million. Some cost saving solutions that were presented included online/summer fee increases of $3.6 million and financial aid savings of $1.0 million—UMass Boston was able to save from financial aid because there are less students, so there is less need for financial aid. It was clarified in the presentation that students are not getting less financial aid.
Some I.T. investments were deferred, saving $1.2 million, a hiring freeze saved $750,000, graduate stipends/waivers $410,000, and some others, which equaled to roughly $20.4 million in savings. It is safe to assume that when it was reported that the $30-million deficit was decreased, these were the strategies that were employed to decrease the deficit.
In addition to that, UMass Boston has had $339 million worth of investments. This is something administrators noted that we should celebrate. These investments include the Integrated Sciences Complex at $179 million, University Hall at $137 million, and the Healey Library roof project at $3.2 million, just to name a few.
UMass Boston also has $533.3 million worth of capital projects under construction, which includes the residence halls at $119.4 million which are being funded as a P3 project, University Hall (outstanding payments of $6.5 million), elevator replacements for Clark, McCormack, Wheatley and Quinn at $8.3 million, etc.
Remaining projects to be funded from different/committed funds amount to $232.1 million. The unfunded capital projects include General Academic Building 2 at $100 million, an energy producing facility at $27.5 million, public safety and athletic facility at $22.7 million, Healey Library and Clark Atlantic Center fire suppression at $11.9 million, and parking garage pedestrian bridge at $4 million.
Despite the budget deficits and what you read in the media, UMass Boston administrators are confident we will get out of these hard-financial times we are in. Data on the Fall 2017 freshman class showed that there was a 22-percent increase in in-state applicants, a 45 percent increase in out-of-state applicants, and a 65-percent increase in international applicants. It was also mentioned that there was an increase in new-student deposits, which is producing further revenue.
It was also discussed that UMass Boston is the only school in the UMass system with a student to faculty ratio of 16:1. The administration plans to raise it to 18:1 to match the student to faculty ratio of the other schools. In the question and answer segment of the presentation, students along with faculty voiced their disdain for the increase in class sizes to match that of the other UMass schools. Mills noted that the administration plans to utilize more Teacher’s Assistants and discussion sections to offset the larger classes. He also assured audience members that the increase in class size will not be significant.
Class cancellations were also addressed. Administrators noted that classes aren’t being cancelled abruptly and that the classes that were cancelled were classes that had multiple sections. Also, to ensure students are able to enroll in their classes, class capacities were increased. The total number of courses that were removed were 86 sections, but 51 are still available via other sections of the same course. Thirty-five were single-section courses.
As mentioned before, there is also a hiring freeze. Administrators were also keen to note that faculty members were not being fired. Even though there is a hiring freeze and 21.5 FTE Associate Lecturers were not hired, those non-contract professors who are not teaching next semester were already notified. Some of these professors already knew they weren’t teaching the coming semester.