Following drastic budget cuts and major restructuring plans, University of Wyoming administrators are hoping American Recovery Plan Act funds can be a lifeline for some programs.
Administrators are confined to a list of demands they hope the legislature or Governor Mark Gordon will agree to fund with federal relief dollars. The University has compiled about $ 315 million in requests, administrator John McKinley said last week at a meeting of the Trustees Budget Committee.
Many wishlist items are aimed at launching new programs that UW admins announced this month as part of a university restructuring project.
The ARP requests discussed on Wednesday include:
- $ 20 million for an entrepreneurship and innovation center project.
- $ 25 million to help launch the School of Computer Science.
- $ 50 million to fund the UW portion of the Wyoming Innovation Partnership.
- $ 1.2 million to help launch the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Initiative.
All programs are part of the proposed reorganization.
The university also wants millions of ARP money for existing UW initiatives, like upgrading the facilities of the College of Agriculture and investing in the struggling ambitions of the Level 1 engineering university.
The ARP request also includes a request for $ 20 million to help hire new professors – especially those in computer and data science – and provide them with the resources needed to launch programs.
“We often fail in recruiting faculty due to lack of money for start-up funds,” said President Ed Seidel. “People would like to come here, but they just don’t get the start they need. So we figured, given the resource requirements we have right now, this would actually be a front for the president and vice president of research to help recruit faculty across the university.
With the exception of ARP funding, UW has offered to launch some of the new programs by diverting money from other budgets on campus.
“We cannot continue to do everything with less. We need to think about what programs are a priority for the university and what structure for the university makes sense, ”new president Kevin Carman told administrators when the plan was unveiled in July.
UW administrators are proposing to fund new programs by cutting low enrollment programs, reducing the number of departments and laying off up to 75 employees. These proposed reductions would total $ 13.6 million.
Ultimately, the $ 13.6 million cut would only save UW $ 3.1 million in overall spending, as UW plans to use $ 5 million from college cuts to help pay for new dorms. and parking, while using $ 5.5 million to help pay for the administration’s new programs project.
UW is seeking comments on the proposed reorganization until October 1, with Carman holding public meetings until September.
Request federal, state help
Despite a series of cuts the university has faced in recent years, administrators believe the Legislature will likely approve only a fraction of the $ 315 million in ARP funding that has been requested and, as such , worked Wednesday to identify top priorities.
The budget committee plans to vote on a priority list of demands at its August 9 meeting.
UW automatically receives $ 18.5 million from ARP, with any additional funding to be determined by Gordon or the legislature. Of that $ 18.5 million, UW is to spend $ 9.4 million in direct student aid.
The state has over $ 1 billion in ARP funding distribute. The Legislature had originally scheduled a special session this summer to allocate the funding, but canceled the session to have more time to figure out how to spend federal funds.
Seidel predicts that Gordon could unilaterally fund aspects of the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, but the legislature will likely weigh on other ARP requests, he said.
Along with the discussion regarding ARP requests, the Budget Committee also discussed its impending block grant request to Gordon for the next biennium 2023-2044. This block grant is general state funding for the university allocated every two years by the legislature and typically includes at least $ 300 million. UW officials said they plan to claim the same amount they received for the current biennium – with a few additions.
UW hopes the legislature will provide $ 9 million in additional funding to UW to provide salary increases of around 3%.
With the opening of new facilities like the Science Initiative building, said Seidel, UW also needs more funds for maintenance and utilities.
The board is not expected to finalize its block grant application until August, but according to the proposal discussed Wednesday, UW would ask for $ 1 million for utilities, $ 320,000 for “one-time capital goods needs” and $ 250,000 for more custodians and other positions in operations.
UW is also seeking to apply for $ 1 million in additional funding to boost its research efforts, the administration’s “pre-award services”, which help faculty apply for grants.
In addition, the administration hopes the state will provide just over $ 1 million in ongoing funding for seven positions within the Agricultural College, as well as one-time funding of $ 1.7 million that would be used to help newly recruited agriculture faculty members establish their programs at UW.
Gordon will send his final budget proposal to the Legislature by November 15. The Joint Appropriations Committee will then review UW’s requests in December ahead of the 2022 budget session.
A major reorganization
Carman told administrators in July that the university’s proposed reorganization “will have an impact on the culture of the university and merits further discussion.”
The plan calls for $ 5.3 million in cuts to universities, mostly through layoffs. However, the administrators are also proposing to implement a general 3% cut in university programs not affected by the reorganization, which will result in savings of $ 1.2 million.
Because the 2022 budget has already been finalized, Carman stressed that the expectation of 75 people who would “lose their jobs” is only an estimate, and that Deans will have the discretion to implement their cuts.
“It’s an approximate stage. We don’t have a list of people who would lose their jobs, ”Carman said.
Most are likely to be professors, although some are expected to be staff, that is, non-academic employees such as office workers or research assistants. Carman recognizes that the cuts will be deeply felt.
“This plan will have an impact on our faculty and staff. They are real people with families. … It will have an impact on the people we care about, ”Carman said.
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told WyoFile in an email that it would actually be Carman, and not the Deans, who would take the final say on how the cuts are implemented.
The Office of Academic Affairs will, however, appoint committees to provide recommendations on the details of the reorganization of academic units.
These committees, which will include deans or associate deans, “will be responsible for organizing the units within specific budget constraints, and not with a number of job cuts in mind,” Baldwin wrote.
These committees should organize “listening sessions” with the departments concerned in the coming months.
When UW cut faculty positions in 2016 and again in 2020, these cuts are mainly due to attrition and retirement incentives.
The university’s current situation means that it is no longer reasonable to rely on attrition to save money, Baldwin said.
“Non-university units affected by these eliminations have reached the point that they would not be able to function fully if further reductions were to take place there,” Baldwin said. “We are at the point that we need to target academic programs. Second, the previous cuts, mainly due to timing, have not been made from a strategic point of view. The current proposal takes a much more strategic approach to ensuring that the university fulfills its mission as effectively and efficiently as possible. “
In recent years, UW officials have criticized the way the university implemented $ 42 million in budget cuts in 2016. These cuts came a bit suddenly, and UW made them with a bang. convenience strategy: remove vacancies and encourage early retirements, even if this meant that some programs were too exhausted.
UW is trying to avoid this with the latest round of budget cuts, and Baldwin has said Deans likely won’t have the flexibility to implement the cuts simply by cutting vacancies instead of laying off employees in targeted programs. for reduction or consolidation.
After obtaining the final recommendations from Seidel, the directors must vote on the proposed reorganization at their November meeting.
Carman said the plan will continue to evolve as they receive feedback from the campus community in the coming months.
The cuts will also mean larger classes, with administrators expecting to receive at least $ 750,000 through “academic policy efficiencies.”
“About half of the courses we teach on campus have 12 or fewer students. We like to have small classes and a favorable student-faculty ratio, but there’s a point at which that just can’t be sustained, ”Carman said. “We have a lot of classes that have single-digit students and we have to think differently about the way we teach. “
Meanwhile, employees and students would also see impacts aside from academic losses, like increased parking rates. UW administrators hope to earn an additional $ 500,000 per year by increasing the price of parking cards, noting that UW has “by far the cheapest parking rates of any university in the region.”