ASU Trustees adopt Financial Action Plan to restore fiscal health

(04-06-2018)

Adams State University has put itself in a solid financial position after the ASU Board of Trustees on Friday approved a list of cost-saving recommendations that will create a net change of $2.7 million in Adams State's fiscal budget that begins July 1.

Adams State's Financial Action Plan includes a $2.2 million trim in personnel costs and $500,000 in non-personnel costs. In total 45 employees, or 11 percent of the university's fulltime benefits-eligible workforce, are impacted through the recommended list of expense reductions.

The list includes eliminating 27 positions across the university. Of those positions, 18 were voluntary reductions due to retirements of faculty and staff, or positions that were already vacant and won't be filled. Another nine positions were cut involuntarily, meaning employees lost those jobs as a result of the university's need to reduce its total workforce. Other employees of Adams State agreed to take a pay cut or were moved to 10-month employment contracts rather than 12-month.

"While these decisions are painful to all the dedicated and committed employees who are impacted, they also are necessary to restore fiscal health to the university and to set a course for future growth," said ASU Board Chair Cleave Simpson.

So far, Adams State has identified and executed $800,000 in reduced costs so that it will finish its current budget year in manageable shape. The university operates on a fiscal year calendar of July 1 to June 30 and has closed its deficit for the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2018. The two budget adjustments – $800,000 this fiscal year and $2.7 million next fiscal year – have put Adams State in a much better position moving forward and address the concerns the ASU Board of Trustees raised when it requested the Financial Action Plan.

"The ASU Trustees look forward to a stronger, more financially stable institution, one comprised of exceptional talent and dedication from a broad spectrum of stakeholders," Simpson said. "We still serve an exceptional student body and continue to advance both our institutional and statutory mission."

At a February meeting, the Trustees provided direction that the administration should strive to include in the FY19 budget a cost-of-living adjustment for faculty and exempt staff; state-mandated increases to classified staff salaries; and an adjustment of all faculty and staff salaries to a minimum salary of 72.5% of College and University Professional Association peers as well as associated adjustments to minimize salary compression.

Development of the Financial Acton Plan included a campus-wide evaluation of all programs: academic programs, student services programs, athletic programs, and administrative and operational programs.

No current Adams State student will lose momentum in a degree plan. Adams State eventually will phase out degree areas of emphasis in physics and information technology due to low enrollment in those two areas. The degrees specifically impacted are math and chemistry majors who have an emphasis in physics, and mathematical science majors who have an emphasis in information technology. Even so, students currently enrolled in those areas of emphasis will continue to earn their degrees. Adams State simply will not enroll new students in those areas of emphasis.

"To be clear, the math and science degrees at Adams State remain intact and strong, and in fact thanks to support from the Porter Scholars program, ASU math and science degrees remain among the best in the nation," said ASU Interim President Matt Nehring, who has been a professor of physics at Adams State for nearly 20 years. "It is the physics and information technology areas of emphasis within those degree majors that are being phased out."

In a message to ASU students and families, the university emphasized that "Adams State is moving aggressively and with sure footing to address its financial situation. Adams State recognizes that funding models of higher education are changing and Adams State's financial picture is in no worse shape – and in fact better shape – than many of its peer institutions."

In another revenue-generating move, Adams State Athletics is returning its roster-size of student athletes on the football and wrestling teams to previously agreed-upon levels, which will serve to generate additional revenue for the university in the form of tuition and fees. ASU will add 20 non-scholarship athletes to the football team and 12 non-scholarship athletes to the wrestling team for an anticipated revenue gain.

Adams State's next goal will be to grow undergraduate enrollment. While enrollment for graduate degrees continues to increase annually, undergraduate enrollment has steadily declined since 2011. Growth in undergraduate enrollment can offset any additional necessary reductions to the ASU budget.

In 2021, Adams State will celebrate 100 years since its founding and the university is looking to capitalize on that historic milestone by placing an emphasis on its roots as the regional higher education provider for southern Colorado and rural communities across Colorado and neighboring New Mexico, and by refocusing its recruitment strategy in larger cities of Colorado through a more targeted outreach to students in those areas.

"Adams State's hallmark as a university is and historically has been a university that provides individual student attention and personalized learning through small class sizes and committed faculty who take the extra time to mentor and work closely with their students," said Dr. Nehring. "Adams State believes that as its story of academic excellence is better told and as the university better showcases the success of its student body and its graduates, that enrollment can be stabilized and will grow. Adams State is producing outstanding graduates across its many academic areas and is committed to better telling its story of success to attract a growing number of undergraduate students."