LV must tighten its belt
Posted Nov. 7, 2008

The University of La Verne will see an overall budget shortfall of $1.7 million for the 2008-2009 academic year. According to President Stephen Morgan, the budget deficit can be attributed to the missed enrollment projection of the traditional undergraduate class.

Despite these numbers, Morgan says that the school has overcome similar challenges in the past, and he maintains an optimistic stance for the future.

In addition to the revenue lost from the 117 students that did not attend the main undergraduate university, room and board shortfalls contributed to the 1.61 percent deficit from the budget, Homa Shabahang, vice president of Enrollment Management, said.

While the main campus’ traditional undergrad numbers fell short, the College of Business and Public Manage­ment and the College of Law are ahead of their projections by $480,000 and $111,000, respectively, Shabahang said.

To compensate for such a high number, many procedures are already in place to regulate expenditures.

Avo Kechichian, associate vice president and treasurer, said that discretionary expenditures include monitoring the amount of out-of-state conference travel, delaying unnecessary office purchases or equipment purchases, and reducing faculty and staff holiday festivities.

Though the attention may be new, slipping enrollment is not uncommon at La Verne.

“This is not the first year we have been implementing discretionary expenditures,” Kechichian said. “The school has seen a downfall in enrollment in the past three years.”

The expenditure constraints have proven effective in balancing previous budgets.

In past years, Kechichian said that senior managers and staff have been able to manage their budgets by the end of the academic year.

The University is as open about communicating the situation to the faculty and staff as it can be, Morgan said. “People are understanding and aware of the academic climate.”

In addition to these expenditure restraints, the Vacancy Management Review Committee determines the urgency of filling non-academic positions after employees leave their jobs.

“The committee determines if the recently vacant position should be frozen or immediately replaced,” Kechichian said. “This act will also allow for salary and benefit savings.”

According to Morgan, the areas that will not be affected by the budget shortfall include the academics and the financial aid packages which award $14 million to students annually.

ULV will continue to offer similar financial aid since portions of it are generated through unrestricted donations via fundraising.

Also, financial aid is important to maintain since it is a way to attract students, Kechichian said.

According to Jean Bjerke, vice president of University Relations, though the budget is low, this does not imply that donations to the school have ceased, or that donors have been slow in paying their pledges.

No drastic alterations for the University will result from the pledges, the president said.

“Many pledges are already fully paid,” Bjerke said. “Ninety-two percent of all donors have completed their pledges.”

Donors are allowed to make five-year pledges, which are signed letters with payment schedules. Bjerke said that some have altered their payment schedules but are still committed to fulfilling the pledges.

Furthermore, projects such as the new Campus Center have not been affected since its construction uses bond funds for financing, Morgan said, and the completion of the Campus Center is still on schedule.

“The bond payments are not dependent on pledge payments,” Morgan said.

“The University issued a bond in order to bridge the time gap between construction bills and payment of some of the pledges,” Bjerke said. “We are covered for all of the construction bills of the Campus Center through the bonds.”

The pledge payments do not affect the payback of the bond for the Campus Center, either, Bjerke said. Instead, the repayment of the bonds has been dealt with by issuing an operating debt payment issue to be collected annually.

“Using the bond funds as bridge financing ensures the timely completion of the Center, even if some donors need to amend their pledge payment schedules or planned payments do not coincide with construction payment,” Morgan said.

Despite the harsh numbers, ULV remains confident that eventually its academic reputation will allow the school to continue without alterations to the functions of the University.

“The goal is to make La Verne a household name so that news of the University’s success is widely known,” Morgan said.

According to the president, the winter and spring terms may bring in more students, especially with the transfer programs available to community colleges. Morgan chooses to be proactive and optimistic, despite the enrollment and economic factors threatening the school.

“The state of the economy is only temporary, and we have seen many cycles,” Morgan said. “We have seen challenges, and we have survived.”

Lesley Michaels can be reached at lesley.michaels@laverne.edu.

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