A shortfall in the number of freshmen and financial aid cuts by the state of Texas has led the university to cut several million dollars from its budget this year. Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, addressed the budget and enrollment issues at a meeting withÂ faculty and staff on Wednesday.
Schubert and other members of the university administration finalized decisions to reduce the university’s costs over the summer. They eliminated seven faculty and staff positions, closed one department and asked several departments not to fill vacant positions. Many departments have been asked to cut 6 percent of their expenses during the coming year.
Other steps taken to minimize spending included reductions in the Core Curriculum budget, a reduction in planned Advancement expense increases and a reduction in Information Services operating budgets.
For the past two years, fall freshman enrollment has been about 980 – up from 870 in 2008. But last week, Schubert told faculty and staff members his best guess is that this year’s figure will be close to about 860. Official enrollment numbers will not be available until Sept. 13.
“That’s a significant shortfall,” Schubert said. “It’s a tough situation we’re in.”
Schubert attributed the decline in enrollment to three primary factors:
• aggressive tuition increases by the university over the past two years,
• steps taken by some of the university’s stiffest competition to soften the effects of their own tuition prices, and
• a failure on the part of the university to execute its own five-year plan for enrollment.
“It’s hard to know how much of a factor each of these played, but we have to assume aggressive pricing increases are a significant player in that number,” Schubert said.
The university increased tuition to $787 per semester hour for the current school year, an increase of about 23 percent since two years ago. Those price increases are part of a five-year plan begun in 2008 to better reflect the value of an ACU degree.
Schubert pointed out that ACU remains priced at a midpoint between its chief competitors: Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Harding University on the low end and Baylor University and Pepperdine University on the high end. However, some more expensive competitors — such as Baylor and TCU – have made moves that reduced the gap between them and ACU, Schubert said
Schubert also said in several key areas, the university has not executed its 5-year plan, specifically in the area of recruitment.
“This is not an easy market to work in,” Schubert said. “Before the 1970s, we didn’t even have a recruiting office. People just showed up. It’s not that way any more.”
Schubert said Kevin Campbell, who has served as interim director of enrollment marketing since the departure of Buck James last fall, has accepted the permanent position this summer and will be charged with tackling the challenges of improving freshman enrollment.
In addition to the gap in tuition income this fall, cutbacks in the state of Texas budget have led to the loss of $700,000 in Texas Equalization Grant funds for ACU students. Chief Financial Officer Kelly Young and Schubert decided to replace the lost TEG money withÂ additional endowment funds. Schubert and SLT requested to spend additional endowment dollars to cover the aid cut by the state.
“We didn’t feel it was right for students to bear burden of the state’s cuts,” Young said.
Despite the financial struggles, Schubert told faculty and staff the university is moving the right direction.
“I’m convinced our plan is the right plan moving forward,” he said. “It’s not time to bale out or to say we have the wrong plan.”