CMU community talks budget in packed library auditorium

Campus leaders answer questions related to $10 million deficit, CMU's future

October 27, 2016

Central Michigan University faculty, staff and students gathered in Park Library auditorium Wednesday afternoon to discuss the university's $10 million budget deficit.

Ian Davison, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, kicked off the forum with a presentation on his college's budget procedures and decision-making authority under CMU's responsibility centered management model. Davison explained how RCM drives decisions within CSE to the operational level, provides incentives for efficiencies and innovation, and can generate funds for investing in strategic initiatives.

"In our college, I am able to allocate money to departments and they, too, have autonomy to make decisions," he said.

In addition to helping fund the growth of the college's high-cost engineering program, Davison said the RCM model has allowed the construction of active-learning classrooms, the addition of a student success center and competitive start up packages for new faculty.

Barrie Wilkes, vice president of finance and administrative services, presented an overview of the $9.8 million anticipated budget shortfall. He noted particular areas where revenue will be lost, including a loss of transfer students and lower enrollment at CMU satellite locations. Areas of growth, however, include online programs.

Wilkes said budget cuts this time will be made through strategic reserves and one-time funds, although next year's adjustments must be made through base-budget reductions.

"We need to get in front of anticipated revenue declines … rather than continuing to deal with ups and downs every year," Wilkes said. "It is early in the process so plans will continue to be discussed on how to address the shortfall."

Tom Masterson, dean of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, noted there are benefits – as well as challenges – of the RCM model.

"It is really nice at times to have money to invest in programs," he said. "The negative is that when times are tough, they're tough on everyone. There's not a lot of fat to cut anywhere around our campus. We all run a very lean machine."

A student in the forum audience asked what is being done to put pressure on state legislators to increase appropriations and keep college degrees affordable for students.

"We continue to lobby and tell CMU's story," said CMU President George E. Ross. "Unfortunately, this issue is not unique to Michigan. My daughter works in higher education in Illinois, and they are going through massive budget cuts."

Ross said the Business Leaders of Michigan, a group of CEOs from major corporations across Michigan, also is working to convince the Legislature that an investment in higher education is an investment in the state. The group has shown Michigan will have 1 million new jobs within the next decade — all requiring employees with college degrees.