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BSU Looks Over Budget for Last Year and Next

Alex Schlee | Staff Writer | 11-15-2011

On Thursday, October 10th, Bill Maki, BSU’s vice president of administration and finance, held a forum in Haag-Sauer Hall looking over the school’s budget. Two identical meetings were held, one at 9 a.m. in room 107, and the other at noon in room 112 with each lasting roughly an hour. Information regarding last year and this year’s budget and the projection for next year were discussed with students and faculty alike at the meetings.

“You won’t walk out of here with any huge bombshells or anything. . .We’re just looking at where we’re at,” said Maki at the beginning of the 12 o’clock meeting.

The first thing covered during the meetings was a summary of the 2011 fiscal year.  BSU is ending the year financially stable, with a little bit of an excess in the budget for enrollment by 115 FYE (first-year enrollments) over the original expectation of 4,600.

During the year, Federal Stimulus funds helped to pay for some costs that normally would have come out of the school’s pocket as well. In addition to that, a $1.2 million contingency reserve was established as an “in case of emergency” backup.

All the numbers looked at during the forum included Northwest Technical College, which is counted as a single entity with BSU. The schools’ combined budgets have maintained a positive operating margin for the past three years, though it has been declining slightly.  This is due to a lack of large projects on campus, and the operating margin is expected to start going back up now that the construction project on Birch Hall is underway.

Next discussed was the current status of the 2012 fiscal year’s budget. BSU is currently average amongst the other state schools. The school’s enrollment statistics are showing to be better than predicted last year.  It was also predicted last year that there would be a 3 to 5% increase in tuition this year, which proved to be correct; we are having a 4% increase.  “Our budget for 2012 is in solid shape,” Maki said.

One of the largest factors of the school’s budget is payroll for faculty and staff.  Currently, BSU has no labor contracts settled, leaving the area of the budget for personnel undefined; the projection for labor costs is unknown.

The rest of the meeting was spent examining the projections for the upcoming 2013 fiscal year. Enrollment is expected to stay roughly the same, but may drop by up to 5%.  In a “best-case scenario,” enrollment could go up by 3%, and in a “worst-case scenario,” it could drop by up to 10%.

According to Maki’s presentation, the funding for higher education is down by 3.3% since 2001.  $554 million used to come to BSU from the state in 2000, and since then, we have lost $9 million of our funding.  66% of our budget is funded by tuition, and the rest is appropriated by the state.  It seems the trend has been going from state-supported schools to statue-assisted schools.

“This doesn’t paint a pretty picture for state funding in the future,” Maki said. Maki went on to explain the main priority of the school in light of the situation with state funding: to keep tuition at as modest a level they can.

Currently, BSU is at the top of the charts for student fees, which reach up to $7,599.  The goal of the university is to lower this number to make things a bit financially easier for students.  BSU now has the highest fees.  In 2001, BSU raised tuition by 17%.  In 2006, caps were put on how much schools could raise their tuition at one time, so ever since, no other state schools have been able to catch up.

The meeting ended with a short talk on how tuition is BSU’s number one source of revenue, but the school wants to keep it reasonable in order to keep enrollment numbers up.  Currently, trends are showing a 10% increase in incoming freshman enrollment, and a 6.8% increase in transfers.  BSU hopes to keep these numbers up; the more students there are, then the more the high fees can be spread out across the student body.