PORTSMOUTH — During its Board of Trustees meeting held May 8, Shawnee State University announced plans for budget reductions due to an anticipated deficit as the result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his report to trustees, SSU President Jeff Bauer said that state funding of higher education has been cut by 20 percent for the fourth quarter of FY20 and is expected to be cut by the same amount for FY21. This reduction translates to nearly $3.5 million for Shawnee State University for the upcoming year.
Additional expenses related to the pandemic, including refunds of housing and meal plans to students who vacated campus mid-semester, further increased the need for budget cuts.
“We presented a balanced budget for FY20 to the Board of Trustees and were on target to achieving that budget before the pandemic,” Bauer said. “We’re now developing a phased-in approach to balancing the budget for FY21 and preparing to fully reopen campus by the beginning of fall semester in late August.”
Plans include a hiring freeze, elimination of all university-sponsored travel, a summer furlough program for administration and staff, restrictions on non-compensation spending, and reorganization efforts to improve efficiencies.
In the summer, SSU plans to work with faculty to identify opportunities to reduce instructional costs. Bauer also requested a 10 percent reduction in his salary as president.
“The global pandemic has created challenges for everyone,” he said. “Shawnee State is certainly not unique in having to make immediate adjustments as we manage the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. We are unique in that we are building upon a strong foundation with a team that has already proven its ability to lead, innovate, and advance this institution.”
Bauer said Shawnee State is better positioned than many institutions because faculty and staff took steps over the past two years to strengthen the institution and grow enrollment. Among accomplishments, SSU was ranked ninth nationally for its game design programs and was ranked by U.S. News and World Report for the first time.
“We are now taking the necessary steps in light of significant reductions in state funding and expenses related to COVID-19 to ensure continued strength and growth for the students and families of our region,” he said.
Bauer said access to a college education is even more critical today. He said the budget reductions are guided by principles to preserve the high-quality instruction, affordable tuition, small class sizes, and personalized support services offered to SSU students.
“Applications for fall semester, particularly in our primary local region, remain strong and we’re ready to welcome new students this fall,” he said. “This crisis might delay us, but it will not keep us from addressing our mission to prepare today’s students for success in tomorrow’s world … a world that will look so much different from the one we left earlier this year.”