Cal U. erases deficit, draws more incoming freshmen

Cal U. erases deficit, draws more freshmen

August 29, 2013
California University of Pennsylvania interim President Geraldine M. Jones addresses the university’s staff Thursday. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CALIFORNIA – California University of Pennsylvania drained various departmental surplus accounts to help erase a deficit that reached $11.8 million last year.

Cal U. interim President Geraldine M. Jones said the university also made cuts across the board to end the last term with the first balanced budget the university has seen in five years, one that even included a surplus.

“For too many years, wishful thinking has taken the place of sound fiscal management here at Cal U.,” Jones said Thursday in her address to the university’s staff in the school’s Steele Hall.

“We can no longer mortgage the future of our university,” she said.

Jones said she will soon rescind a notice she issued to the faculty union indicating the university was considering layoffs to bring costs in line and, instead, conduct an in-depth study to ensure money is spent on programs wanted by students.

She also said while enrollment has declined by more than 9 percent in the past two years, the size of the fall freshman class is 26 percent higher than it was last year.

“Despite these positive indicators, our university still faces financial pressures created by a combination of flat or declining state appropriations, increased personnel costs and continuing enrollment challenges,” Jones said.

Enrollment has dropped from 9,483 in 2011 to an estimated 8,276 this semester. On the third day of classes this term, the student head count was down nearly 4 percent from the previous year.

“Tuition income alone will not meet our needs. We must continue to seek savings in order to secure our financial recovery,” Jones said.

To reduce the deficit, Cal U. also took such steps as reducing campus bus runs and trimming athletic costs, advertising, food service costs and travel budgets. The university also furloughed a few employees last year and did not fill many of the 54 vacant jobs on campus, Jones said.

Jones declined to say how much of a surplus Cal U. brought forward from last term or how much money remains in the university’s fund balance until the budget audit is complete.

“We know we’ve done an excellent job on the books,” she said.

She said the university would be “very pleased and overjoyed” to release that budget information once it’s confirmed by auditors.

Jones was assigned to the president’s office in the spring of 2012 in an administrative shake-up at Cal U. during criticism from the State System of Higher Education about spending, particularly on the new convocation center.

Cal U. faculty union President Michael Slavin also spoke to the staff, announcing the school’s faculty has won a labor dispute involving the university charging professors to park on campus without first negotiating those employment terms during contract talks. The faculty, which now has 255 members, is due a total of $250,000 in parking fees and interest, money that Slavin said would have been better spent on academics.

“We need to change the idea that only one-third of our budget is spent on academics,” Slavin said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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