The University of Akron President Gary Miller said in a video message to campus Monday that the school is set to lose between $65 million to $70 million as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week, Miller outlined a detailed path to adjust to the realities of the post-COVID 19 world. All University revenue sources have been significantly diminished by the pandemic “real and anticipated” loss of revenue.
Miller began his occupancy as president in October, immediately implementing a strategic planning process aimed at increasing enrollment and revenues. The planning process was put on hold due to coronavirus.
The announcement came a week after he released a similar video sharing plans for substantial cuts to athletics and a reorganization of departments. Senior administrators hired before April 1, including Miller, will take a 10% salary reduction next fiscal year.
“I have directed the Provost and his leadership team (including the deans) to present a plan for a full reorganization of the academic division that reduces the number of colleges and the number of programs while fine-tuning our traditional strength areas,” Miller said.
The university enrollment has continued to drop for the last decade to just under 20,000 this year. The budget approved for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, called for using the university’s reserves by about $11 million.
Newly appointed Provost John Wiencek will announce further details within the next week, Miller said about the initial plan to consolidate the university into five colleges. The university currently has 11 colleges, including a graduate school, law school and the Wayne College campus.
Miller did not identify which five colleges would remain but said newly appointed Executive Vice President and Provost John Wiencek would make that announcement in the coming days.
Wiencek is the first to hold the Executive Vice President/Provost position, which makes him the second-ranking officer of the university. Miller said Wiencek is working with the university’s chief financial officer and other cabinet members to plan the cost-saving measures.
The goal of establishing the Executive Vice President and Provost position are:
- To consolidate all vice-president-level planning through the work of the most senior cabinet member.
- To ensure the academic mission of the institution is always represented in all University budget decisions.
Also members of the university community including University Council, the University Council Budget and Finance Committee, Faculty Senate and student government will then be able to provide feedback either directly to their department chairs or through tools that will be attached to Wiencek’s messages, Miller said.
“This challenge must be met in the coming fiscal year, thus we must adjust immediately,” Miller said Monday.
Interim CFO Stephen Storck said last month the state already told the university to expect a $5 million reduction in state funding the rest of this fiscal year, and a $20 million reduction next year. Federal stimulus funds will total $14 million for Akron, but half that is required to go to students, leaving the university with just $7 million to fill its growing hole. The university already spent almost $8 million refunding students this semester for part of their room and board after they were sent home.
In April, Miller announced that the university’s saving measures were set to include 20% reductions in athletic expenses and the expenses of all non-academic administrative divisions. The University of Akron’s school president added he is working with the school’s athletic director to reduce the athletics budget.
“Like all other universities in Ohio and elsewhere, the pandemic has weakened us to an extent requiring immediate and decisive action,” he said.
A final draft of the plan will go to the board of trustees in June, with review by the faculty senate prior to that vote.
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Photo “University of Akron” by JEN9841. CC BY-SA 3.0.