Koker announces new budget corrections

Departments find ways to lower their spending


UWO Graphic – Koker said that decreases in enrollment have stifled revenue. “[The] fiscal ‘23 budget issue we find ourselves in is we had the worst possible words collide,” he said.

Josh Lehner, Assistant News Editor

Provost John Koker announced the university’s new budget plan in a March 1 press release, which includes a 2% across-the-board budget cut for the upcoming fiscal year (FY).

Koker also mentioned that he will continue the university’s heightened student retention efforts, which Chancellor Andrew Leavitt cited as an area of concern in his January announcement calling for budget correction.

“Weaker-than-anticipated revenues related to enrollment declines, frozen tuition and very modest increases in state support have long been our issue,” Leavit said. “I have asked Provost John Koker to work with the other vice chancellors to produce a plan that will bring our expenses back in line with our revenue while maintaining a modest reserve.”

Koker’s plan tasks his office with reviewing “all unspent (over budget) commitments” and asking “deans and directors to limit spending with current FY 2023 funds when possible” for the remainder of this fiscal year.

His announcement did not mention any specific commitments or how deans will be directed for best spending practices.

Additionally, a 2% across-the-board 102 base-budget reduction will be implemented for FY 2024. Many department chairs are waiting for budgetary direction from the deans to understand exactly how this cut will affect them and have chosen not to comment until more details become available.

Physics and Astronomy Department Chair Carey Woodward said that, apart from Koker’s announcement, there isn’t a lot of detailed information.

“The devil is in the details,” he said. “Fund 102 is vast — it pays for everything from salaries to paper clips — and it will be up to the dean’s office to decide how exactly to implement a 2% cut.”

Regarding the budget, Woodward said that he only controls teaching and office supplies. Still, he said that a 2% cut will not be too consequential.

“A 2% cut in [fund 102] would be inconvenient, but far from devastating, and it certainly wouldn’t change our course offerings,” he said.

The reduction will be felt by the music department, chair Nathan Krueger said, but it won’t affect course offerings for students there, either.

“Any reduction hurts, but we feel confident that we can maintain our standards going forward,” he said. “I don’t believe this reduction will affect our ability to run the courses and sections we are planning.”

Journalism Department Chair Tim Gleason said that, upon finding out about the budget cut, he and other departments shared ideas about ways to limit spending. One of the first steps his department took was removing phones from faculty offices.

“2% is manageable,” he said. “But the tricky thing is planning down the road, when enrollment seems to be unpredictable.”

There have been some signs of improvement in student retention, such as an increased retention rate for first-semester Fall 2022 students coming back for Spring 2023. Still, Leavitt cited lower-than-expected enrollment in his Jan. 31 announcement alongside the school’s tuition freeze; Koker recently announced a potential 4-5% tuition increase to combat this.

Amid a state budget cut in 2016, UWO aimed to cut its workforce by offering retirement incentives, the Oshkosh Northwestern reported. But in his February town hall, Leavitt said that he’s “not a proponent of laying off huge swaths of people” and that “we are not at the point with this current budget situation that we were in the past.”

Gleason said that one way of revivifying student enrollment is allocating a small budget to each department for recruiting prospective students.

“We don’t want to steal students from other majors because that doesn’t help the university,” he said. “If each department had a small budget to do, for example, high school recruiting, that would be really helpful.”