After being notified that there will be a four percent cut of the college’s state appropriations, WVU Parkersburg Vice President of Finance and Administration Alice Harris put her more than 30 years of experience in accounting to the test.
The problem facing WVU Parkersburg is limited to three primary sources of revenue.
The first source of revenue is grant money that comes in from financial aid. This is pass- through money for the college for students, scholarships and purchasing equipment.
The second primary source of revenue for the college is state appropriations and the third is tuition. While WVU Parkersburg receives a little bit more in state appropriations compared to tuition, the money is 50/50 regarding the impact on the budget. These are funds coming in as revenue for the college to use.
The state notified the college last October that they would be getting a four percent cut in the state appropriations, which came out of January’s payment from the state. Four percent does not sound like a lot but, according to Harris, it was a massive blow to the college.
“The four percent cut amounted to $400,000 for the school,” Harris said. “Prior to that, we had a budget that was in balance and actually had a very small surplus built into it.”
After receiving news of the cuts, Harris went back through the budget with every department manager to cut items out of the budget. Even with the cuts, the college is still going to have a deficit of $110,000 this year.
If the college were to receive more cuts, according to Harris, there is nothing more to be done to the budget this late in the fiscal year.
But it is not all gloom and doom for WVU Parkersburg. The college, luckily, has reserved funds, so it can absorb the deficit while not causing any problems in paying the bills in the near future. Harris said many options are being discussed.
“Sixty percent of our expenses relate to personnel, salaries and benefits. So if you start talking reducing cost, you have to consider whether or not a staff reduction being considered for elimination,” Harris said. “With developing a strategic plan, it is our desire to fund the objects that are important to use in that plan.”
The college also looks at the programs being offered and determine if any of them are underperforming. They will have to make a decision whether or not to eliminate underperforming programs. Harris and other managers actively look for ways to increase performance so that the college can keep the programs.
One area of the college that is not going away is the Child Development Program. WVU Parkersburg understands that there is no profit in providing childcare, but providing services for students who need child care to get an education outweighs the cost.
“There are people here on this campus every day who would not be here if it was not for the child care option provided for them,” Harris said, “We recognize part of that is an investment in our students and the community to allow people to get an education.”
While the potential of more cuts looms, the discussion about tuition increasing to help pay the deficit is an option. In order to keep WVU Parkersburg open, the college has to cover the minimum operating costs.
The college spends more than $800,000 a year, which translates to $25,000 to $30,000 a month. Ranking as the 2nd lowest tuition rate community college in the state, WVU Parkersburg raised the tuition by nine percent in 2015. Nine percent may seem like a lot to students, but according to Harris, it is only $12 more per credit hour. For example, the price for a 12 credit schedule was $1,464 in the 2014/15 academic year compared to $1,608 this year. While students are concerned when the cost of tuition increases, Harris ensures to students raising the cost is the last resort option.“We do not ask for increases the first time something goes wrong with the budget, we only do it if we absolutely need it,” Harris said.
Understading that many students are attending WVU Parkersburg for the low tuition cost, Harris and other memebers of administrarion will fight for the second lowest tution in the state.
By Tyler Bennett