UMD discusses university's budget reduction plan

By KBJR News 1

February 24, 2014 Updated Feb 24, 2014 at 10:48 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- UMD is bracing for cuts.

The university needs to reduce its budget by more than nine-million dollars.

Chancellor Lendley Black held a town hall meeting with students and faculty to explain what it means for the campus.

Chancellor Black points to a decline in new student enrollment in the last year leading to less tuition.

That, plus a fringe benefit shortfall discovered in 2013, and a reduction in state funding.

More than 50 faculty members from UMD have already taken part in the university's voluntary layoff program.

"We offered a program for them that would make it more attractive for them if they're ready to retire or ready to change careers and so that provided some incentives and opportunity. They came forward and said, 'yes, I'm interested in doing this,'" said Chancellor Black.

Other changes include reducing expenses, increasing revenues like summer activity on campus, and possibly having a ten dollar fee for students who use the DTA bus line.

"Most universities have some kind of transportation fee. We do not and so this is one of the reasons we brought it up, and a way that we can better manage our cost," said Black.

Although Monday's event was open to the public, few students were in attendance.

"It's always disappointing to have events like these and not see students involved," said Kim Hyatt, a student at UMD.

Hyatt says most students would likely delete an email announcing meetings like these right away, but that an email would at least provide students with "the benefit of the doubt."

"They need to be keeping the students more involved in the process," she said.

UMD is also currently undergoing a program prioritization, a self-review process looking at all UMD programs and services to examine the demand and cost-effectiveness.

"I know we still have some tough challenges ahead of us but these are challenges we can and we will meet, and we will continue to be stronger and stronger as a result," said Chancellor Black.

He says the first step in this process is having the discussion, which began Monday.

The next is to hear from students and staffers about proposed suggestions for change.

Chancellor Black says that it could be weeks or even months before any changes are made.

A strategic planning and budget committee meeting will be held in March to decide the next steps going forward.

Elsa Robins