What is UWO’s financial future?

Christina Basken, Assistant News Editor

UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt has accepted the recommendation from the Cabinet to employ a three-phase fiscal recovery plan to reduce general purpose revenue spending by $9.5 million over the next two years.

According to Leavitt in in his Jan. 29 blog, where he addressed the issue, he stated the future of UWO is unsustainable, ‘‘The amount of revenue UW Oshkosh brings in does not cover our expenditures,” Leavitt said. “This leaves a deficit that we have traditionally covered with the use of unrestricted fund balances.”

The three-phase plan stated in the Chancellor’s blog consists of goals to reduce $2.5 million from $5.4 million of spending with reductions taking effect in July 2018, reducing $6 million of GPR spending from $114.5 million GPR spending over the next two years and raising a net of $1 million of on-going revenue by the second year of the plan.

Chad Cotti, University Resource Alignment Steering Committee co-chair explained the break down of the process that includes team efforts from the University Resource Alignment Committee, the office of institutional research and the budgeting office.

“We collect all the metrics, and we work with the office of institutional research and the budget office and all the different academic administrative programs, and we collect all the evaluation information and then that information is run through panels of evaluators who then rank how they feel the programs are doing based on the data,” Cotti said. “That ranking information is given to the deciders to decide how they want to move the budgetary pieces around.”

According to Leavitt, they are still in the research phase of the plan.

“We’re going through a process where each division and each institution are evaluating where there could be some reductions; and then we are going to reconvene here in a couple weeks to put together a list and then begin to have conversations about it,” Leavitt said. “At this point, I’d say we’re more in a research phase.”

Leavitt said this plan requires a team effort from faculty members as well.

“Faculty members ought to be concerned in the sense that we all need to be looking together for ways to responsibly reduce the number of sections we offer,” Leavitt said. “Every time we offer a section with a small number of students, that’s an expenditure. Therefore it’s something that we have to be careful about. We can’t afford to have a lot of classes these days with very little enrollment.”

Leavitt also said it could put strain on faculty, with the possibility of utilizing them beyond their normal extent.

“I think that faculty are going to be utilized to their usual, or beyond their normal extent,” Leavitt said. “Already, faculty here is stretched pretty thin between teaching research and service. I don’t see this as something that will be hugely impactful to faculty. We need faculty to be in the classroom teaching sections.”

UWO student Jenna Hawk said she is worried that faculty will be under too much stress to take the time to individually work with students.

“My biggest issue with the plans that are being made would be faculty and staff losing their jobs,” Hawk said. “I feel like they are going to be under more stress, with a higher workload and I’m concerned that they won’t be able to take the time to get to know the students, and work with us as closely.”

According to Leavitt, he does not foresee faculty being laid off at this point in time.

“I think that it is exceedingly unlikely that we would reach the point where we would have to lay off faculty,” Leavitt said. “That’s just simply not going to happen. There are so many other things that we could do before we would get to that point.”

UWO student Jamie Pierard also said she is concerned about what the outcome will be for professors.

“My concern is that professors already have to get through so much information during each semester with students, and I think that making cuts in staff will mean that our professors will have even more to do,” Pierard said. “I hope that students won’t suffer from the gap in what is being taught in class versus what is actually learned.”

Leavitt said this plan will not affect the merger with UW-Fond Du Lac and UW-Fox Valley

“This is completely unrelated to the merger,” Leavitt said. “As a matter of fact, what we’re trying to do is get our house in order so that as we take on the other two campuses that form this new university, all of us will be in the best possible situation.”

To reach the targeted reduction of $6 million of GPR spending from $114.5 million GPR over the next two years, Leavitt said it will take reducing the workforce by about 100 divisions.

“It’s going to be primarily winding down the number of folks that work here; we’ve already reduced the workforce by 100 divisions in the last three years, and I think that it’s going to take a similar number going forward in the next two years,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said another challenge of this plan will be enhancing successful programs with fewer staff.

“We do have some programs that are very popular with students and have a high degree of success, and we want to figure out how we can enhance those programs,” Leavitt said. “At the same time, we need to figure out how to continue to operate with fewer employees.”