Budget talks reflect dilemma

Seth Ickes – Staff Writer

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CLARION, Pa.- Clarion University’s 2017-2018 budget presentations were a telling factor for the current financial condition of Clarion University.
The presentation was split into two different sections, with a foreword from President Karen Whitney.
The first section of the budget presentations addressed the entire university at large, while the second section of the presentation covered academic affairs.
Whitney said that the administration is “working towards a balanced budget,” emphasizing that the university is at a point of “austerity.”
She is confident things can only move forward positively from here. Whitney noted that Clarion was only due to receive $32,000 more in funding from the state next year.
Whitney would later say that Clarion University is “76 percent funded by students and only 24 percent funded by the state” and that “25 years ago those numbers were the opposite.”
She said, “The state should at least meet students halfway.”
Whitney noted that she plans to visit the state legislature next week, taking with her students and alumni in order to address concerns the university has with funding.

 

Gianna Campalong / The Clarion Call
University members listen to the budget presentation.

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Whitney emphasized that Clarion University is “student driven” and that students should “care about the outcomes of the budget process” and ask if the budget allows them to “continue to enjoy and grow from your college experiences.”
Vice President for Finance and Administration Leonard Cullo presented first, beginning with an emphasis that Clarion University “is a people business” and that “enrollment drives revenue,” noting that enrollment is currently down.
Clarion has had to make up for it in other areas to keep “revenue flat” through tuition increases and an increase in graduate students attending Clarion.
Cullo further spoke about Clarion only receiving an increase of $32,000 for next year. He said, “Of the $9 million PASSHE received from the state, 67 percent of that funding went to four universities: West Chester, Slippery Rock, Bloomsburg and Shippensburg.”
He stated that cuts to salary were important to maintaining a balanced budget and reported that he went to the administration multiple times to request to “defer rates to management who made less than $100,000.”
This request was denied.
Interim Provost Todd Pfannestiel focused on academic affairs. Pfannestiel pointed to cost-savings initiatives that could save the university money every year, from the cost of online courses to reducing supplemental salaries, adjunct faculty and a reduction in tenure-related faculty through attrition.
Pfannestiel further spoke on online courses and the cost they have on the university. Online courses being something he considers to be a “benefit” or “luxury” to students.
“Each student in an online course costs the university an extra $25 more than ones in the classroom,” said Pfannestiel.
When academic affairs added the extra costs these students created, online courses cost the university $310,000. When further asked for comment on how the Clarion planned to address this, Pfannestiel emphasized it was “under discussion” as to how to best reduce this cost. No decision has currently been made.
It is possible students could be expected to account for these extra online fees in the future according to Pfannestiel. He said, “[We] do not want to pass along costs to students unless it makes sense to.”

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