JSU Board of Trustees approves $650K in budget cuts
by Laura Gaddy
Oct 21, 2013 | 6061 views |  0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JSU freshmen Jake Ingram, left, and Charlie Reed, both from Hokes Bluff, get a little study time in from this park bench on the quad at Jacksonville State University Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
JSU freshmen Jake Ingram, left, and Charlie Reed, both from Hokes Bluff, get a little study time in from this park bench on the quad at Jacksonville State University Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville State University board of trustees Monday approved $650,000 in budgets cuts because the university lost $1.2 million in expected revenue when enrollment dropped this fall.

The cuts will come in reduced travel for employees and less spending on maintenance and supplies, university officials said. The rest of the $1.2 million shortfall will be made up for by methods such as cutting the hours part-time employees work and by leaving job openings vacant, according to Allyson Barker, acting vice president of administrative and business affairs.

The board passed an interim budget in July, about one month before the university realized that 468 fewer students were showing up for classes this fall than last year. That meant the board couldn’t count on the tuition and fees it expected to collect. On Monday, the board approved an amended budget of $110.6 million.

“We’re losing students, and we’re losing money,” said Thomas Dedrick, a trustee who sits on a special committee that reviews university spending. “We have got to find a way to bring students in.”

The budget passed Monday includes $35.9 million in state revenue and $65.9 million from tuition and fees.

Enrollment was a focus of conversation during the extended quarterly meeting. Over six hours, the board heard a detailed report on recruitment efforts, discussed measures to attract more students and passed at least one measure aimed at increasing the number of students who finish their degrees at JSU.

That measure implemented for the first time a required grade-point average of at least 2.0 for admission, and it increased the ACT score requirement for conditional admission by one point to 18.

Officials at the university believe that by increasing the academic standards JSU is more likely to attract students who are prepared to persist until graduation.

“I can say this is probably the most important issue before the board,” Board Chairman Jim Bennett said, referencing enrollment. “We really need to double down on our recruitment.”

JSU President Bill Meehan said the university is using three methods to try to boost enrollment: more scholarships to attract transfer students, scholarships for out-of-state students to make their tuition match that of in-state students, and keeping tuition level as long as state funding doesn’t fall.

Despite the budget amendments, the university will still fund a 2 percent pay raise for employees, which will add about $1.1 million in expenses in 2014. The pay raise is funded in part by tuition increases, which were passed by the board in April.

This year, students are paying $18 more per credit hour than they paid last year, and they are paying a new $150 student fee.

After university officials realized student enrollment was down, all university departments were asked to trim operating expenses by 5 percent. That means the university will plan to spend about $650,000 less on travel, maintenance and supplies in 2014, Barker said.

The impact of the enrollment dip was cushioned by the uptick in tuition and the new fee. JSU actually is counting on collecting more in tuition and fees revenue this year, $65.9 million, up slightly from 2013’s $64.8 million, despite the decline in enrollment.

The decrease in enrollment has followed steady increases in tuition, but JSU officials point to changes in the federal Pell Grant program as the primary cause for the loss. The number of JSU students who lost their Pell Grant eligibility in recent years is greater than the decline in enrollment, said Rebecca Turner, provost and vice president of academic and student affairs.

“We think it’s all due to Pell,” Turner said. “I don’t think the tuition increase has had a negative effect. I do think we are at a price point that we need to carefully consider any future increases.”

The university also heard from Andy Green, director of enrollment management at the university. Green detailed the efforts the university is making to draw more students from high schools and two-year colleges.

He noted that his department has four full-time recruiters who spend most of their time traveling across northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia and parts of Tennessee. He said he needs more recruiters.

“With Prell Grant reduction and tuition increases students start to weigh their options,” Green said. “It’s having more feet on the street that’s going to help us out.”

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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