As enrollment changes, budgets don’t always follow


Monica Kast

This story is the second in a series about enrollment and budgets for the different colleges at WKU. Read part one here

In the last 10 years at WKU, enrollments have shifted between colleges, with more students pursuing degrees in the College of Health and Human Services. Other colleges, like the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences and Potter College of Arts and Letters, have seen their enrollments decrease since 2007.

Along with changes in enrollment, some colleges at WKU have seen changes in their budgets. Other colleges, despite changing enrollments, have seen little changes to their budgets.

The College of Health and Human Services, which had the largest increase in enrollment, also had one of the largest increases in their budget. According to the 2007-2008 Budget, CHHS had a budget of over $9.5 million set for that academic year.

Ten years later, with a nearly 32 percent increase in enrollment, CHHS has seen a budget increase of nearly 80 percent to $17.2 million.

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, the college with the largest decrease in enrollment, is also the only college whose budget has decreased overall since the 2007-2008 academic year.

In that academic year, CEBS had a budget of $11.4 million. For the 2017-2018 academic year, CEBS had a budget of nearly $9.6 million, according to the 2017-2018 budget. Enrollment in CEBS has decreased by more than 34 percent since 2007.

Sam Evans, dean of CEBS, said operating budgets for colleges have been relatively unchanged.

“Budgets have stayed pretty much the same, with the exception of staffing,” Evans said. “In other words, you’ve got two major components of your budget. You’ve got the operating, and you’ve got the personnel. Operating has been very stable.”

Evans said there has been a “decline in the number of positions in the college,” leading to a decline in the budget for staff. He said the “overall budget has reflected that.”

President Timothy Caboni, in a meeting with Herald editors in January, said “there are no easy choices left” when it comes to budget reductions for WKU. He said the university needs a more modern budget model.

“There is one large unit that shall remain nameless that’s lost a third of its enrollment, and another large unit that’s doubled its enrollment during the past five to seven years,” Caboni said. “Both of those units’ budgets have stayed exactly the same. That’s not sustainable long-term. So, a new budget model will allow us to move resources to where we’re having success or reward for better performance.”

Caboni said the new budget model, being created by the budget council, will allow for more clarity about “how funds flow around the university.”

University College, a college which also has experienced a decrease in enrollment since 2007, experienced a large increase in budget.

Merrall Price, associate dean of University College, said the large change in budget comes from “administrative reorganization and personnel changes” within University College.  

Price said “there’s been so much administrative changes in University College” that comparing the 2007-2008 budget to the 2017-2018 budget would be like comparing two  different things. Price noted that areas that used to fall under University College, like regional campuses, gender and women’s studies and some liberal arts and sciences departments, have since moved to different colleges, which might account for some of the budget changes.

Price also said that in 2007, there was a much smaller faculty for University College, which could also account for the changes.

As for the potential for future cuts, Price said “any cut is cause for concern,” but University College was “trying to be forward thinking” and prepare students to be workforce ready.

“I think performance-based funding is going to treat us quite well,” Price said of University College.

Potter College of Arts and Letters has seen a slight increase in funding, with a $19.1 million budget set for 2007-2008 and a $20.6 million budget set for 2017-2018. Gordon Ford College of Business has also seen it’s budget increase, from $8.7 million in 2007-2008 to slightly over $10 million for 2017-2018.

Ogden College of Science and Engineering has seen an increase of slightly more than 31 percent, from a $16.2 million budget in 2007-2008 to a $21.3 million budget for 2017-2018.

David Lee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said there may be more value looking at a “four-to-five-year snapshot” when it comes to budgets.

“It is fair to say that our budgeting process over time has been pretty incremental, and we made percentage point changes in what’s already there,” Lee said.

Lee said the academic affairs office has more control over the staffing piece of the budget, as opposed to the operating budget. He said in recent years, less money has gone back to colleges and more money has been retained by the academic affairs office for the “budget reduction processes.”

Lee noted that some colleges, like CEBS, had seen “some decline in resources,” while other colleges had seen small growths in their budgets.

“Fundamentally, there hasn’t been dramatic change in the budgets for the various colleges,” Lee said.

With the potential for statewide budget cuts of 6.25 percent, or a loss of $4.6 million for WKU, Lee said colleges would likely have to face budget cuts.

“I think the colleges are going to experience some additional cuts,” Lee said.

Lee said he couldn’t say if there would be specific changes colleges would have to make if cuts happened, but he said they were “focused now on this new budget model, which will drive resources in a very different way.”

“I think there’s going to be a closer linkage between … student credit hour production and resources going to colleges,” Lee said. “The new budget model is going to be a dramatically different way of funding, not only colleges, but pretty much everything else we do, including [the Academic Affairs office].”

Print managing editor Monica Kast can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.