St. Mary’s College prunes budget due to enrollment shortfall
A dozen positions eliminated as part of $2.7 million cut
St. Mary’s College of Maryland officials — for the second time in four years — fell short of student enrollment goals, and will lose approximately $2.7 million in anticipated tuition, room and board, and other fees this year.
The fiscal 2018 operating budget is now $67.5 million based on an enrollment projection of 1,411 full-time undergraduate students, which is 112 fewer than the prior year’s assumption, trustee John Wobensmith said during a board teleconference last Thursday.
State funding totals $25 million, he said. Tuition rates for both in-state and out-of-state students increased 2 percent and auxiliary fees increased 3 percent, as approved by the board in May. Funds raised through tuition are estimated to total $19.7 million, and student fees will bring in about $3.1 million. Sales and service revenue is expected at $18.2 million.
Because of the decline in enrollment, St. Mary’s board of trustees on Thursday adjusted down the college’s operating and capital budgets, including pruning 12 vacant positions in departments such as information technology and the library. Other cuts to this year’s fiscal budget include a reduction to faculty personnel savings due to retirements, elimination of pay raises and deferring strategic initiatives.
Board president Sven Holmes said the trustees and the campus community have worked collaboratively to develop plans to combat the enrollment decline. “Our priority is student enrollment,” he said. “The faculty is fully engaged in the process.”
“We’re at a point where we need help from the outside,” Tuajuanda Jordan, college president, said during the teleconference. College staff will “bring people in to help with financial aid, student recruitment” as well as marketing and college branding, she said.
The goal is to strategically plan for ways to “attract, recruit and retain” students, and get “what we need to have on campus to get students to thrive on campus,” she said.
Chip Jackson, vice president for business and finance, said after the meeting “there is no question enrollment is lower than anticipated.” Jackson said in a phone call the college will experience a $1.2 million reduction in tuition revenue, accounting for the fewer students and 2 percent approved increase in tuition rates.
The college in 2013 also was unable to fill its admission goals. That year the trustees also had to cut millions from the budget when enrollment fell short by more than 100 students under the leadership of Joseph Urgo, who did not have his contract renewed as president after the shortfall was announced.
Jackson said lower enrollment this year is a combination of a lower number of first-time college students who recently graduated from high school combined with a smaller number of transfer students.
“Transfer students make up 20 percent” of the overall enrollment, Jackson said. College staff members have “worked to increase the number of transfer students over the last three years,” he said.
The lower enrollment mirrors a national decline of the number of students enrolling at post-secondary education institutions, Jackson said. Many comparable college and universities, such as the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., are experiencing a decline in enrollment, too, and that decline is expected to continue until 2019. At that time, it is expected that enrollment rates will begin to pick up gradually, he said.
The 12 positions cut prior to the finalization of the budget include jobs in the library, information technology, advancement operations and the physical plant, Jackson said. A vacant faculty position in philosophy and religion and a vacant faculty position in history have been eliminated, but a faculty position in environmental studies has been added to that growing program, he said.
Sen. Steve Waugh (R, St. Mary’s, Calvert) said in a telephone interview Friday that college staff are “committed to the college in general,” adding that they are “hitting in the right direction [and] compete aggressively nationwide.”
Waugh said the college’s Center for the Study of Democracy is a “unique asset in the state.”
Kelley Hernandez, staff senate president, said in a phone call on Monday she was a student at the college from 2004 through 2008, and has been an employee since 2009. She said she’s been with the college through its high and low points, and said it is “hard to hear” when the college is struggling to make its budget.
“Anytime you see an impact [involving the budget], it’s important to take a step back and breathe,” she said. The positions cut were vacant positions and “nobody had to be let go,” she said.
Hernandez said college staff currently have not shared with her any negative comments about the finalized budget.
Jordan said in a June 15 release that David L. Hautanen Jr. was been appointed as the new vice president of enrollment management. Hauntanen has “more than 25 years in the admissions and enrollment field,” she said. “I am certain David has the experience and skills necessary to help us adequately address the enrollment challenges that St. Mary’s College has endured the last several years.”
Tuajuanda C. Jordan