By Casey Premoshis - For the Cal Times
According to a recent university budget report, as of June 30, 2011, California University of Pennsylvania had $177 million in liabilities, an increase of $22 million from the previous year.
The “Annual Statement of University Policies, Priorities and Resources” shows that the total liabilities included items such as workers compensation and retirement benefits, but approximately $90 million worth were related to bonds, mortgages, and loans.
Large portions of the debt which the university has taken on are due to construction costs of the new Convocation Center, parking garage, and other campus “improvements” costing more than originally planned.
Past reporting by the Cal Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette state that during construction of the convocation center, the original plans were changed so that the center could have additional features such as a removable floor, wave-cam system, and expanded conference facilities, even though budgets have been decreasing.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has also been forced into funding a large portion of the center due to cost overruns and limited donations. The Post-Gazette reported that the university set a $6-million fund-raising goal for the Convocation Center, but had only raised $3,000.
In March of this year, it was made public that PASSHE was auditing Cal U after unspecified allegations were made. There is very little information that has been made public as to why the university is being audited, or when the final report will be released.
In response to budget issues, the university cut funding for all departments on campus by 25% this past year. The 2010-2011 fiscal year saw drastic changes to the universities finances, with increased revenues in some areas, while new debts and losses of funding occurred in others.
The university brought in approximately $141 million through tuition, state and federal funding, as well as other sources including gifts and returns on investments. This represents about $8 million more in revenues than the previous fiscal year, but the total of university expenses amounted to $145 million. According to the university Statement of Revenues, Expenses, and Changes in Net Assets, the total loss to the university was $4.3 million
In total, the operating expenses of the university were $10 million higher than in the 2009-2010 FY (fiscal year). Breaking down the figures, the four largest areas of expense consisted of: Instructional costs of $45 million, followed by institutional support at $29 million, student services accounted for $18 million, with “auxiliary enterprises” totaling $14 million.
Dr. Michael Slavin, the head of Cal U’s faculty union, is on the APSCUF state Meet and Discuss Team, and is allowed access to university budget reports. He believes that the expense figures show where the university’s priorities lie.
“Only $45 million was spent on instruction…not even half the money that this university uses in their budget is used for what this university is for,” Dr. Slavin said.
Of the 14 state system schools, Cal U has the highest tuition and fees, coming in at $8,312 that each student must pay; nearly $200 more than the two other schools that break the $8,000 mark. For graduate students, the cost is $9,749, which is almost $400 more than the next closest school.
Although Cal U may be the most expensive of the Pennsylvania public universities, the school maintains the highest student to faculty ratio, coming in at 26:1, with the next closest school being Millersville at 23:1, according to the 2012 AAUP Salary Survey provided by APSCUF. A state report puts the average Cal U class size at 30 students, which is also the highest of the state schools.
In terms of how Cal U pays faculty for each full-time student, the university has the least being spent per student, $2,967, than the rest of the 13 state schools.
“I say the priorities are spending money outside of academics…,”Dr. Slavin said. “… on the values added things, on the entrepreneurial things. Not on the education of our students, and I think this is wrong.”
Recently, in an attempt to find savings, the university announced that nine non-union personnel will be furloughed, effective after the current academic year ends in June.
In addition, according to the Observer-Reporter, the school is now facing a lawsuit from Leonard Colelli, dean of the Eberly College of Science and Technology, who claims that he is being terminated due to budget cuts, despite his contract still being in effect through 2013. The lawsuit was filed on April 4 and is still pending.