Retention to affect Baker finances

As the semester comes to a close, students are preparing for finals and break while Baker officials are preparing for more budget cuts and hoping the new year brings good tidings

Jo Adams, vice president of financial services, said during a budget summit Nov. 24 at Collins House the university has cut more than $2.7 million out of its budget so far, which is around 75 percent of the needed $3.5 million in cuts to balance a $42 million budget.

“It’s a moving target,” Adams said, referring to the budget. “There’s more work to be done.”

University President Pat Long said the university will try to make the cuts before the end of December but doesn’t know if that goal will be met.

“I know that this last 25 percent will be the hardest,” she said.

Long said budget managers have done a great job making cuts impact students as little as possible and protecting people’s jobs, which are the two most important factors, she said.

“Right now we are hoping there will be no layoffs out of this,” she said. “I hope we can get there, I don’t know whether we can or not.”

However, Rand Ziegler, vice president and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said classes with five students or fewer will not be taught by adjuncts but rather full-time professors.

“It was the only personnel area where I thought we had an opportunity to trim,” he said.

Adams said the endowment also is down, and although it won’t affect this year’s budget, it will affect 2009-2010’s budget. About one-third of the money spent out of the endowment goes toward scholarships every year, but Adams said students shouldn’t fret.

“If there’s a decrease in endowed scholarships, we’ll likely make that up with Baker scholarships so that our students won’t be adversely affected,” she said.

She also said people should remember the economy is impacting everyone, from families to other businesses and schools like Harvard and the University of Kansas.

“It’s everywhere, not only private colleges but the public and corporate world,” she said. “The key is to be proactive.”

While trying to stay ahead of the downturn and overspending by making cuts, Adams said student retention second semester will determine what direction the university takes in planning next year’s budget and managing this year’s.

“As a tuition dependent institution, any variation in that can have an effect,” Adams said.

Judy Smrha, assistant dean of institutional effectiveness, said current enrollment figures haven’t sent up any red flags that retention will drop below the usual 10 percent decrease the university sees, which is around 100 students who either graduate, transfer or decide college isn’t for them after the fall semester.

“The data doesn’t indicate – today anyway – that we have catastrophic events around the corner,” Smrha said.

Smrha said students may be more cautious about taking on debt in the form of loans since the economy is down, whereas two years ago they may have had no problem signing a promissory note.

“I do recognize and don’t want to dismiss the fact that there are few funding sources available to some students,” she said. “In a good economy, you’re not worried about it. In a bad economy, it starts becoming more psychologically problematic because you’re not so certain you’re going to get a job when you get out.”

Adams said the university has to keep moving forward, however, and is keeping projects such as renovating the cafeteria at the top of the list.

“You want to keep your competitive edge and that certainly would help us,” she said. “You just don’t want to sit still.”