by Max Brantley
Therefore, we need to take early action—and the earlier the better.
Our strategy to recoup the budget shortfall this year is two-fold. First, we will reduce all non-personnel accounts by 10% of the amount in the accounts at the start of this fiscal year, July 1, 2013. Second, we will institute a semi-hard freeze on all hiring.
... The 10% reduction in non-personnel accounts will be applied to all maintenance and operations accounts—unit maintenance accounts, fee accounts, auxiliary accounts, designated funds, and others except non-discretionary accounts such as grant funds, donated funds, and capital (construction) appropriations. Also, we do not plan to reduce scholarship accounts.
Units will have fewer dollars to spend but will retain their existing discretion to spend their available dollars on their diverse needs. This means that there will be no general restriction on specific categories of expenditures (such as travel and equipment purchases).
The semi-hard freeze on hiring means that when personnel positions, for whatever reason, become vacant, they will be left vacant. There will be exceptions for critical positions in all major divisions, such as public safety and information technology services. Impact on enrollment will be a primary concern as we decide whether to fill positions this year and as we develop next year’s budget.
Official fall enrollment last year was 12,872. Our preliminary, unofficial number this fall is 12,403. This year's number will change as we clean up the 11th day snapshot; it could go either up or down a bit, but should not change much.
In terms of elaboration, UALR is going to be in good company as a number of campuses in Arkansas and across the nation are going to report declines this year. For example, I understand that the University of Memphis is down, as are two of our old Sunbelt rivals—Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.
My own strong hunch is that when the dust settles the main explanations will be improvement in the economy and changes in federal student financial regulations that include new limits. UALR's student body is more sensitive to such changes than the student bodies of some campuses in that our students will take a job or work more hours if the opportunity comes along. For the same reason, their behavior is affected quickly by changes in financial aid policies that make it more difficult to finance their college education.