UVI president warns budget cut will hurt school
Published: March 11, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The University of the Virgin Islands may be forced to reevaluate its class schedules or cut programs to mitigate continued funding shortages - the most recent of which is a proposed $1.4 million budget cut for the upcoming year.
During its quarterly board of trustees meeting Saturday, the UVI board voted to authorize the university to submit an appropriation request of $27.4 million for the next fiscal year to the Office of Management and Budget.
UVI President David Hall said that the Office of Management and Budget gave the university a budget request ceiling that is $1.4 million less than its current budget of about $28 million, which already follows a $3.5 million decrease from the previous budget.
"This will be hard to maintain and will have a tremendous impact on the institution," Hall said.
Hall said he has written letters to Gov. John deJongh Jr. expressing his concerns and hopes to meet with him soon to discuss the hardship the cuts pose. Hall said he also has meetings with the community faculty and students to discuss hiring freezes and other concerns.
"These looming cuts are most severe because we have been able to absorb the previous reductions without affecting our teaching resources and class schedules, but we certainly will not be able to continue with another $1.4 million cut," Hall said. "This is not just about the university, but also about the community, the economy and quality of life that we enjoy."
Hall said the university is looking forward to restoring the 8 percent salary cuts that took effect in 2011. He said the expectation was to do that by July, but it would have taken a budget increase of $1.7 million. However, instead of getting more money or staying at the same level, UVI is getting less money, he said.
When asked whether the budget cut would mean more salary or personnel cuts, Hall said that would never be his solution.
Hall said the recently announced federal tightening of the purse strings and accompanying cuts in federal funding will also have an effect on the university. The cuts make it likely that some programs will be affected - not immediately, but in another year or so, according to Hall.
UVI also is struggling with a steady reduction in the number of students who sign up to attend the school and an increasing number of students who drop out from one semester to the next, Hall said.
Enrollment numbers are down significantly and it is time to begin addressing the issue before the situation becomes more critical, he said.
The university continuously conducts recruitment campaigns during which staff members visit schools across the territory for college fairs and educational expos, Hall said. Staff also has continued to travel to neighboring islands and some parts of the mainland to bring in interested students, and the university is about to raise its level of outreach in hopes of capturing more students, he said.
The university has hired marketing company RuffaloCody for target application-generation and has purchased a list of potential applicants, increased email recruitment and is reaching out through telemarketing and e-marketing, Hall said.
The university has developed a new color brochure that shows the beauty of the campus and the islands.
It is too soon to determine whether the new approach will turn things around, Hall said.
"Some of the things we have looked at is getting to students earlier in their high school years to create that interest, get that personal connection and keep the dialogue open," he said. "We will be entering into a memorandum of understanding with the government of some eastern Caribbean countries to throw their support and funding behind students to attend UVI."
Provost Camille McKayle said the sagging economy, financial obligations and family or personal issues have been significant factors for students not attending or not continuing at UVI.
Some research has shown that a direct correlation exists between decreasing academic performance and falling enrollment because many of the students depend on financial aid packages that require their grades to remain at a certain level, she said.
Trustee Jennifer Nugent Hill said she sees the direct link of the sagging economy and the enrollment drop, but everything has to be taken into context.
"This has to be looked at with its connection with what happens in society," she said. "If kids are not educated, we will see the increase in crime."
The board also approved:
- Adopting a policy for retention, archival and disposal of documents that will free up storage space and make a standard practice of how and when documents are stored or destroyed.
- A human resources manual.
- A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement for a solar energy plant at the university.
- Amended Articles of Incorporation of the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands, to include items such as changing College of the Virgin Islands to University of the Virgin Islands.
- Entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands in keeping with best practices for financial and other benefits.
An update report on the Research and Technology Park that was scheduled for Saturday was postponed because key players of the project were unavailable. The opening ceremony for the park is scheduled for May 31.
- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.