Wright State to cut costs by leaving unfilled positions vacant

Wright State University president David Hopkins announced on Monday that the university would not fill some of its positions. The decision to leave jobs empty was made to help realign Wright State’s budget.

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Wright State University president David Hopkins announced on Monday that the university would not fill some of its positions. The decision to leave jobs empty was made to help realign Wright State’s budget.

Wright State University’s president has implemented a hiring freeze and has asked other administrators to reduce expenditures as the school continues to struggle with its finances.

The university’s strategic hiring committee has been instructed not to approve hires unless they represent health, safety, compliance needs or demonstrate a “direct impact on revenue,” president David Hopkins said in an email to Wright State students, staff and faculty on Monday.

“After reviewing anticipated enrollment trends and the recent release of Governor (John) Kasich’s biennial budget in regard to higher education, it is very clear that we must take further action now,” Hopkins said. “I appreciate everyone’s continued cooperation as we address the urgent need to balance our base budget and restore our unrestricted reserves.”

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Wright State officials have been reducing expenses for the past year as the school’s unrestricted reserve fund dropped from more than $100 million in 2012 to $12.9 million as of June.

“For position searches already approved but not completed, I have asked the SHC to re-analyze these positions,” Hopkins said.

The school’s spokesman Seth Bauguess could not provide an answer when asked how many open positions would be impacted by the hiring freeze. The university, which employs more than 3,700 people, announced in October it would cut 23 jobs, including six faculty positions.

All vice presidents and deans were asked to reduce expenditures, where possible, for the rest of fiscal year 2017, Hopkins said.

Wright State unveiled a budget realignment plan last year that was designed with the expectation that there would be a more than 1 percent growth in enrollment this year. But, university-wide enrollment declined by around 1.6 percent this academic year, resulting in a $10 million loss, Hopkins said.

Domestic enrollment ticked up 0.8 percent at Wright State this year but international enrollment dropped by 21 percent, a phenomenon officials have said is due to a scholarship fund drying up in Saudi Arabia and the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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Even when the 1 percent growth was projected, WSU “didn’t seem very likely to reach” it’s target growth, said Marty Kich, English professor and president of the WSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Kich said he wasn’t surprised by the hiring freeze as enrollment has been flat or in decline at Wright State over the past few years.

This semester, the university has 16,438 students enrolled — more than 3,000 fewer than it had in 2010, according to WSU institutional research. Wright State had its highest enrollment in 2010, at 19,793.

“Enrollment projections seem to be more budget driven than enrollment strategy and planning driven,” Kich said.

Officials have called for greater attention to be given to enrollment as it’s a revenue stream they believe they have some control over. A task force focused on growing enrollment was proposed in November by vice chairman of the board of trustees Doug Fecher.

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Another factor pushing the university to leave jobs unfilled is an anticipated $2.5 million loss in investment income this year, Hopkins said in his email.

Wright State’s original budget plan called for the university to identify $19.7 million in savings in fiscal year 2017 and $8 million in fiscal year 2018, according to Hopkins’ email. The enrollment decline and investment losses mean Wright State needs to find around $25 million in savings for FY 2018 as opposed to the originally projected $8 million, Hopkins said.

Hopkins has asked provost Tom Sudkamp and chief financial officer Jeff Ulliman to develop a plan to find more savings by April 3, according to the email.

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WRIGHT STATE EMPLOYEES

Wright State announced it would cut 23 positions in October and on Monday president David Hopkins announced the university would not fill some open jobs because of budget strains. Below is a breakdown of university employees.

• 910 full-time faculty

• 24 part-time faculty

• 921 adjunct faculty

• 1,528 full-time staff

• 369 part-time staff

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