Stephanie Wrobel

Approximately 50 members of Miami University’s faculty met for a faculty assembly meeting Wednesday, April 18 to listen to President David Hodge discuss an update on the status of Miami University’s budget and present the recipients of the Benjamin Harrison Medallion.

University budget plans pending

The discussions of the budget at the meeting, held in Upham Hall, were described as preliminary budget plans by Hodge.

Richard Norman, senior vice president of finance and business services and treasurer, presented the budget options to the faculty members.

“The worst-case scenario is serious but not dire,” Norman said during the meeting. “Our budget planning must be flexible.”

Norman said there are three huge factors of the budget that are undecided at this point, including tuition rates and the amount of aid the school will receive from the state – both of which are dependent on Ohio’s state budget, which has yet to be finalized.

The third factor Norman mentioned that would affect the final budget proposal is the number of students that will be in the incoming first-year class. Norman said it would be until mid-May before the university knows what size class of 2011 to prepare for.

Norman described one of Miami’s new budget options – Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s initiative for college education, which Strickland has titled a “Higher Education Compact.” The compact proposes a zero percent tuition increase for universities during the fiscal year 2008 and a 3.3 percent increase in state funding in the same year.

Strickland discussed this proposal during his State of the State Address March 14, 2007.

Hodge said the governor’s proposal would result in a greater deficit for Miami’s revenue than if the university were to increase tuition.

“Capping tuition at zero percent would have some pretty serious implications, as tuition accounts for three-fourths of our revenues,” Hodge said.

Norman did not readily approve of Strickland’s proposal either.

“Ohio’s budget situation is very constrained and we may not know the final budget until June,” Norman said.

Although Norman said the governor’s budget plan would not be good for Miami with regards to tuition rates, it may not even pass through the state legislature.

“It is not yet clear whether the (Republican) legislature will even support the (Democratic) governor’s budget,” Norman said.

One option of making up for a budget deficit is to continue raising tuition costs as has been practiced in the past. Norman said that immediately after the budget is passed by the board of trustees, most likely in July, the university would send out tuition bills to parents.

Another option, which Norman mentioned, is possible job cuts at the university. He said that in the worst-case scenario, the university would seriously consider cutting employees and may make reductions within a year, despite the state of the budget. He said that funding has to be allocated to help keep the highest priorities of the university.

If jobs are to be cut, Norman said that school deans would be approached and asked to cut budgets, then most likely chairs and department heads would be consulted on the issue. He said that this would happen next fall and any cuts would go into affect possibly as early as Jan. 1, 2008.

After the presentation, Hodge asked if there were any comments, but no one in the audience spoke up.

Both Norman and Hodge said the budget options will continue to be discussed until the best solution is decided upon.

Hodge stressed the value of tuition at Miami.

“Miami is a bargain,” Hodge said. “Our median time to graduate a student is now 3.7 years and when you put tuition in that time frame, we have one of the best educational values in Ohio. We have the ninth best public graduation rate in the country – we want to stress value, value, value.”

Announcement of Benjamin Harrison Medallion winners

In addition to presenting possible plans for the university’s budget, the Benjamin Harrison Medallion was presented to members of Miami’s faculty or staff who have made outstanding national contributions to education. It is named for the 1852 Miami graduate who was president of the United States from 1889 to 1893.

The first recipient of the medallion, Richard E. Lee, a distinguished professor of zoology, was awarded the honor because of his extensive research in the subjects of ecology, physiology, and cryobiology.

Hodge cited Lee as one of the top two or three researchers in his field.

Allan Winkler, a history professor, was the other recipient. Hodge accredited Winkler with being one of the leading educators of 20th century political history.