By MARIAH YOUNG
Public universities and colleges in Virginia, including the University of Mary Washington, are expected to cut five percent of their general fund appropriation, or $1.2 million in the case of UMW, for the 2015 fiscal year, and seven percent for the 2016 fiscal year.
The university is expected to present their savings plans to the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget by Sept. 19.
A recent hiring freeze at UMW was a preemptive move in response to the statewide budget cuts. It will have little effect on the student body, according to Provost Jonathan Levin.
In late August, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe outlined the state’s $880 million budget shortfall and announced across the board cuts.
Paul Reagan, McAuliffe’s chief of staff, sent an email to all the rectors and presidents of public higher education institutions across the Commonwealth. In the email, Reagan said colleges and universities that receive money from the state should prepare their own savings strategies.
UMW does not currently have a final number on how many positions will be affected by the hiring freeze, but will unfreeze positions as necessary, such as they did recently with the director of disability resources.
“Our goal is to make sure the student experience is impacted as little as possible,” said Doug Searcy, vice president of student affairs.
The governor specifically urged public colleges to avoid increasing tuition to compensate for the changes in the budget. The UMW Board of Visitors approved an approximately $112 million budget in May, including a six percent increase in tuition.
Overall, the university was budgeted to receive approximately $27 million from the Commonwealth. This included funds for all aspects of the university system, including the James Monroe Museum and the Dahlgren, Stafford and Fredericksburg campuses, according to Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance.
According to Levin, the number of courses offered by the university will not change, but there will be personnel aspects cut.
“We are all in this together. All areas of the university will contribute to making sure we have a balanced budget while we maintain a priority on our academic core,” Searcy said.
According to Levin, funds must to be reallocated, but budgets are up to the discretion of each of the university departments’ budget managers.
“Every budget manager will need to make decisions on how much of that is going to be done through freezing positions and other means, such as operating budgets,” said Levin.“Over the past 10 to 15 years, you see a steady decrease in state funding for higher education. It’s a national phenomenon.”
Earlier this summer, the University removed an additional $1.2 million from the budget after the incoming class of 2018 turned out to be smaller than expected. Cuts came from small areas of the budget, including licensing agreements for computer programs and Internet plans.