From staff reports
Financial pressures on Ohio University could increase if federal funding to higher education is reduced as part of a compromise between the U.S. House and Senate versions of the federal stimulus bill, a university official said.
In a talk before the Faculty Senate Monday night, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur said that officials are evaluating how changes to the stimulus bill could affect Gov. Ted Strickland’s proposed biennium budget and, as a consequence, Ohio University’s budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
Expected money from a federal stimulus bill was built into the governor’s budget to help support higher education and extend the tuition freeze. A version of the bill, which was passed today in the Senate, reduces money designated for higher education support to the states by some $40 billion compared with the version passed by the House.
Should the state have to reduce funding to higher education as a result of lower-than-expected federal aid, Ohio University could be looking at a deficit of more than $20 million, Decatur said. But even if funding levels remain unchanged, the university still could face a potential shortfall of $13 million to $16 million because of cost increases, shortfalls in investment income and a new student information system, Decatur said.
Ohio University has a number of efforts underway to address the shortfall, Decatur said, adding that deans and vice presidents are looking at administrative restructurings that could generate between $5 million and $10 million in savings. Compensation and benefit packages also are being evaluated.
“Our first priority is to protect our educational mission,” he said.
In a message to higher education officials over the weekend, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut said the Senate bill reduces from $79 billion to $39 billion the size of an "education block grant" designed to help the states avoid cuts in K-12 and higher education. Strickland’s budget proposal, released last week, had designated Ohio’s share of those funds to extend the tuition freeze and avoid other cuts in higher education and the rest of the state budget.
A House-Senate conference committee now will go to work reconciling the two versions of the bill.
Meanwhile, at Ohio University many of the money-saving measures under consideration have timelines dictated by policy, contractual language or administrative necessity. For instance, health benefits plan changes must be communicated to the university’s provider in accordance with contract terms, but also ‘in time’ to inform employees as to the changes prior to open-enrollment, officials said.
Other timelines are being developed by the various planning departments, work groups, and the BPC.