Washington State University’s Vancouver campus will be touched by the sweeping budget cuts announced by university President Kirk Schulz this week, but the local impacts aren’t immediately clear.
In a Monday statement, Schulz announced that each department at WSU’s five campuses has been instructed to cut 2.5 percent from its spending. He said the goal is to reduce the university system’s $30 million annual deficit spending by $10 million year over year until that deficit is eliminated. As reported by The Spokesman-Review, Schulz called for reductions when he stepped into the position last year, calling university spending “simply not sustainable.”
“While we are working hard to minimize the impact of these cuts on students, faculty, staff and the community, difficult decisions must be made,” Schulz wrote.
Lynn Valenter, WSU Vancouver vice chancellor for finance and operations, characterized the announcement as a call for “spending reductions.” The Salmon Creek campus, which has a state budget of about $39 million, has been asked to carry $1.2 million over in remaining fund balance for next year, Valenter said. Last year, the school carried over $500,000. Valenter could not say what the university’s overall reserve is, as each individual department has its own reserve fund.
“We’re being told to retain your savings,” she said. “They’re not taking it away.”
At the Pullman campus, the university has already eliminated the Performing Arts program, which has been propped up by university reserve funding, according to Schulz’s statement.
Temporary employees in the Office of Multicultural Student Services and in the Office of Equity and Diversity will also be eliminated, as their positions were funded using university reserves and no permanent funding was designated to support those positions.
“These decisions are painful,” Schulz said. “They will disrupt lives, and the consequences of eliminating and reducing positions will ripple throughout our community.”
At WSU Vancouver, Valenter said she is unaware of any programs that will be eliminated, nor is she aware of any positions that will be cut outright.
“Potentially it could lead to reduced hours for part-time staff, but that’s a no at this time,” Valenter said.
The reductions could also lead the university to slow what Valenter called “opportunity costs,” such as the addition of staff, as a result of the university’s expanding enrollment. WSU Vancouver set enrollment records this year with 3,546 students enrolled, a 3.5 percent increase over last year.
“Might we leave a job open for a while?” Valenter said. “I think that’s possible.”
The university is slated to release monthly budget reports throughout the academic year.