20 , 2001
Higher-than-expected numbers provide good news in dismal budget yearBy Emily Caldwell, onCAMPUS staff
Higher-than-expected summer and autumn enrollment provided good news in a difficult budget environment at Ohio State, officials reported Dec. 6 to the Board of Trustees. Enrollments exceeded last spring's projections by almost 1 percent, said William J. Shkurti, senior vice president for business and finance.
"It is encouraging to see enrollment increases at a time like this," Shkurti said. "Our students, who could choose to go anywhere, instead voted with their feet to come here. It shows we're still able to meet their needs, despite a difficult budget. It also means additional tuition and state support of instruction at a time when we need it most."
Taking into account summer and autumn quarters, Ohio State enrolled a total of 67,802 students, or 621 (.9 percent) more than projected last May as the Fiscal Year 2002 budget was being prepared. Of those, 47,319 were undergraduates, 16,469 were graduate students and 4,014 were students in the professional schools.
James Mager, associate vice president for enrollment services, noted that part of Ohio State's increased enrollment relates to retention -- the percentage of students returning for their second year has reached a record high of 86 percent. Mager attributed increased enrollment to the confluence of a number of initiatives designed to enhance the quality of the incoming class and provide services that lead to better retention of students once they're here.
He said improved retention relates to the upward trend in the quality of students choosing to attend Ohio State as well as to heightened attention paid to undergraduates, and especially to freshmen and sophomores. Initiatives in academic departments and the Office of Student Affairs range from restructured advising and programming offered in the Younkin Success Center to Welcome Week expansions, increased Honors and Scholars and living-learning opportunities, and programming related to the First Year Experience.
The higher-than-expected enrollment also assists in the short run with the University's approach to the state's 6 percent cut to the current fiscal year budget. The now-official enrollment figures indicate that Ohio State received $4.4 million more in state subsidy and tuition than previously expected when the University budget was approved in August. Of that, $2 million in one-time funds will be used to offset the shortfall and $2.4 million will be held centrally pending possible additional state budget cuts.
In all, trustees authorized the University to combine that $2 million with $5 million from the Rainy Day fund, $8.5 million in college and support unit one-time cash reallocations, and $4 million in central cash balance reallocations to adjust the Columbus campus budget. The shortfall in state funding will have to be addressed on a permanent basis for the Fiscal Year 2003 budget.
As part of the first-quarter budget report, Shkurti also noted that the Health System continues to significantly improve its financial status, and last fiscal year demonstrated a $24 million improvement over the previous year. The system is making consistent progress; its current deficit stands at $223,000, compared to $1 million a year ago, Shkurti said. And the Department of Athletics and the Schottenstein Center have reversed their deficits of a year ago and are on target financially, he added.
Shkurti also presented an annual report to trustees on internal units recording operating debts owed to the University. Currently, nine units report deficits totaling $17 million, which is less than 1 percent of the annual operating budget. All units are being monitored for progress toward financial stability in the year ahead, Shkurti said.
Recent Legislature activity should help higher education in Ohio
The word from the Statehouse is that no further cuts to higher education are planned for this fiscal year, President Brit Kirwan told the University Board of Trustees on Dec. 6.
"We learned that higher education has been exempted from additional agency budget cuts beyond the 6 percent reduction in the governor's October executive order," Kirwan said. "I think this decision reflects a growing consensus among our state's leaders about the importance of higher education to the economy."
He added, however, a note of caution that the DeRolph school funding issue is still unresolved, and that Ohio's economy remains "uncertain at best."
Kirwan also reported that the General Assembly has decided to retain $44 million in Fiscal Years 2003 and 2004 for the Biomedical Research and Technology Transfer Trust Fund rather than diverting that money to help balance the budget.
Among those testifying before the legislative conference committee to recommend that the money not be diverted was Fred Sanfilippo, senior vice president for health sciences and dean of Ohio State's College of Medicine and Public Health. Others testifying included Sally Jackson, president of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and Todd Ritterbush, president of the Columbus Technology Leadership Council. Members of the Board of Trustees also were helpful in making the University's case with legislators in the General Assembly.
"It is worth emphasizing that this was a major save, and we should congratulate the General Assembly, the governor, the business community and others for their support," Kirwan said. "The tobacco settlement legislation included the creation of this fund, and we have been counting on it as a major foundation of our Biomedical Research initiative, which in turn is a key part of our Academic Plan."
Kirwan noted that Ohio State researchers have been collaborating with private-sector partners on promising proposals with the potential to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health -- to the tune of an estimated seven dollars in other funds for every dollar made available by the state.
"Elimination of these funds would have been devastating," he said. "With these funds, Ohio may finally be on the verge of taking a much-needed step to grow its knowledge economy. ... We cannot afford to let this opportunity slide, and I am delighted that our governmental leaders concur with this belief."