Many answers about Miami University’s financial future are still unknown, but university administrators have made one thing clear: coping with the financial situation will not be easy.
President David Hodge gathered with a panel of four other university administrators for a financial forum Thursday afternoon in the Williams Hall television station.
Hodge and the panel discussed challenges to the university during a period of economic uncertainty and took questions from a small cross section of students, staff and faculty.
“As we move forward, this is not simply about cutting off things,” Hodge said. “It’s about deciding what’s most important, making sure we prioritize those and pooling money and resources into those to make sure we’re a stronger institution.”
Hodge said 80 percent of Miami’s budget is tied up in salaries, meaning faculty cuts must be made.
“Ultimately, we have to make some very difficult and painful decisions,” Hodge said. “And inevitably that means some positions will be eliminated.”
Provost Jeffrey Herbst does not anticipate that a reduction of faculty will cause a significant or noticeable change in class size. Hodge added that if every faculty member taught one additional class once every four years, there would be no change at all to the current average class size.
According to Hodge, the university is allowing departments all over the university to self-evaluate and come up with individual ways to respond to the crisis.
“A lot of the heavy lifting is being done by directors through the university,” Hodge said. “We’ve tried to not micromanage from the top, but allow our good people to do what they’re supposed to do, which is figure out how this all fits into the big picture.”
David Creamer, vice president of financial and business services, said he thinks departments are good stewards of their funding, but said he is still watching to ensure it is being spent appropriately.
“Everything is getting an extra review,” Creamer said, “but we’re trying to make sure that the most essential things get through.”
Hodge expressed his concerns that making cuts in one section of the university could have unforeseen effects on other areas. He said any cuts must move Miami in the right direction.
“Almost every part is related to every other part in some way,” Hodge said. “What we have to be careful about is cross-functional cuts that inadvertently affect other parts.”
Herbst added the university must delicately approach any cuts with deliberate consideration.
“We have to be very careful about managing our resources,” Herbst said. “We can either approach these things with a sledgehammer or a scalpel.”
According to Hodge, every 100 students attending Miami generate $1.4 million in revenue for the school. Looking ahead to the size of future classes admitted to the university, Hodge said it “doesn’t take much of a swing to affect revenue.”
Hodge mentioned that national predictions say the suffering economy will make more people select in-state schools, changing Miami’s ratio of in-state to out-of-state students.
Hodge said he does not yet know the ramifications of this potential shift, but said the office of admission has been ratcheting up its recruitment efforts both in and out of state to try and avoid any potential drops in enrollment.
Barbara Jones, vice president of student affairs, said the student experience at Miami will remain a top priority and promised there will be no changes in student organization funding.
Herbst also said the goal of Miami will remain the same despite economic uncertainty: to educate young people.
“Our long term goals remain critical,” Herbst said. “We can’t be deterred by whatever happens in the short term, no matter how dramatic.”
Patricia Gallagher Newberry, lecturer in the journalism program, organized the event with the help of communication professor Howard Kleiman.
Newberry was pleased overall with the program, saying the administration answered the questions in a clear and straightforward manner. However, she was worried that so many answers are still unknown.
“One of my concerns is there are not enough answers yet and it’s going to remain an uncertain time,” Newberry said. “If I were a parent or a student I would be very nervous, because there’s just not enough known right now.”
Newberry said students and interested members of the Miami community can listen to a podcast version of the hour-long forum at www.wmub.org or www.muohio.edu/news.