By: Dan O’Malley
There is a strong possibility that Juniata may be forced to deal with budget cuts in the future. President Jim Troha said that this was, in part, due to Juniata missing its enrollment targets with its freshman class, as it received 365 freshman students instead of the anticipated 425 students. Juniata also received lower retention rates compared to previous years, which affected the budget, as well as an increase in health care premiums for faculty and staff.
Associate Dean of Students, Dan Cook-Huffman described what the cuts meant and “From what I am aware of, we have been told that we need to cut 5% of our budget to help balance our budget. 5% is not an enormous amount. There is a boom and bust cycle of higher education. Enrollment is down in higher education. Expenses go up and we sometimes struggle meeting the needs of a growing demand because we sometimes have less than expected enrollments,” Cook-Huffman said.
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Matthew Damschroder described the budget cuts and the effects it might have on the college. “The college budget is a tool that changes contextually every year. I wouldn’t say it is ever static; in fact, it is dynamic. A college needs to constantly reevaluate its spending, resources and revenues. This year we have been scrutinizing our employee benefits, and we have been very careful with how we filled positions, looked at student employment and making sure that our employment experiences are educational and effective. We are looking at our contracts with external agencies and making sure we are getting the best value from them,” Damschroder said.
In order to combat the problem, Troha said that the college is aiming towards a freshman class of 400 students next year. “We have to budget for a more conservative number. Sometimes we hit goals and sometimes we don’t. We want a more realistic number or a more conservative number. We need to allocate resources in a different way. We are looking at how we handle utility cost. We are also looking at as people retire, how do we fill their positions, and we are looking at operating budgets and how we operate it. We look at ways to add to the budget and add to revenue diversification. When you bring those two entities together, you have your budget,” Troha said.
Students will most likely not see any noticeable changes. “I would think students wouldn’t notice any difference. We don’t want our students to notice any difference in their education or extracurricular activities. I hope these are more functions that are internal,” Troha said.
The budget changes may influence the way faculty are hired in the future. “Because most of our expenses are on personnel or people, if an administrative department has five people, if one retires, we would reallocate workload so we may not hire someone to fill that position. We may have less staff in the future to do what we are currently doing,” Troha said.
Damschroder, however, said that students may notice some small changes. “Different people will feel pressure in different ways. Students may see programmatic changes, maybe some curricular innovation or implementation of student activities may be facilitated with budget concerns,” Damschroder said.
Any changes students do experience in the long run, hwoever, will definitely be minimal. There wasn’t a pay increase this year, and we have made changes around the margins around copays. It’s not serious blows; if it happens every year for a long time, then it’s bad. It hits lower paying employees harder. For students, there may be fewer jobs available, but programs, lectures and classes will all absolutely continue,” Cook-Huffman said.
“We have been here for 141 years. There is good reason to believe that our best days are ahead of ourselves. Our overall trajectory is stable and strong. It’s not a crisis but a challenge. There will be ups and downs. I’ve been here 21 years; we have cycles of boom and bust. We have a lot of new improvements that make Juniata attractive in the market place,” Cook-Huffman said.