Wright State on track to meet budget but finances still ‘tenuous’

Enrollment boost sought as way to prevent further budget problems.

Wright State University has collected the bulk of its revenue for this fiscal year, meaning all the school has to do now to meet its budget is keep expenses in check.

Officials also are targeting enrollment.

The single biggest source of revenue for most colleges is tuition revenue, and with the final semester of the year now underway, WSU has already received its last large lump of revenue.

Wright State trustees slashed more than $30.8 million from the university’s fiscal year 2018 budget last year in an effort to rebuild the school’s drained reserve fund. Trustees set a goal of generating a $6 million surplus this year, and the school is so far on track to reach that goal by June 30, school leaders said during a board of trustees meeting Friday.

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“We’re on track, but it’s not in the bag,” said Doug Fecher, chairman of the WSU board of trustees. “From here toward June 30, it’s got to all be about expense control.”

Though WSU appears to be on track to reach its goal, trustees and officials stopped short of declaring a success yet.

Cutbacks put in place last year appear to be working, Fecher said, but the university’s financial situation is still “tenuous.” University leaders “need to continue to be diligent” president Cheryl Schrader said, because even though the money looks like it is there now, it might not be later if there are too many surprises.

Trustees and administrators are already turning their attention to boosting summer and fall enrollment so that they can increase tuition revenue.

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Throughout the last few years, Wright State has struggled to keep its enrollment steady, let alone increase it.

The university’s enrollment has declined in part because of “brand problems” stemming from the school’s financial issues, said Mary Ellen Ashley, WSU vice president for enrollment management. Recent dips in enrollment may also be a reflection of the fewer resources Wright State’s enrollment management office has had compared to other universities, Schrader said.

Last summer’s enrollment was down enough that it caused the school to start out the fiscal year in a nearly “$3-million hole,” officials said Friday. This past year, Wright State’s fall enrollment was also projected to be one of the university’s lowest in around a decade.

International enrollment, which has declined by 779 students since 2015, has been around a $15-million blow to Wright State’s budget over the last two years.

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“The international decline continues to kind of haunt us,” Ashley said.

Wright State administrators and trustees have long said an enrollment turnaround would serve as a solution to the school’s financial problems. To do so, the university has formed nine committees to focus on increasing the number of students taking classes there.

“I really enjoy this conversation, frankly, because we’re talking about growing revenue finally instead of making cuts,” Fecher said.


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