December 4, 2020

Webster University projects $12.2 million budget shortfall, immediate budget cuts expected

Webster University is projecting a $12.2 million budget shortfall below its revenue goal for the year. Budget reductions will start immediately, according to an email President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster sent university employees on Jan. 18.

The university plans to make budget reductions in the following areas through June 30, 2013:

—   Five percent budget reduction for all budget lines except for salary and utilities.

—   Limit new hires.

—   Hold on travel and entertainment expenses.

—   Cap on new classroom furniture expenses at $150,000

—   Cap on deferred maintenance spending at $140,000

—   Cap new site setup spending at $250,000

After she received the email late Friday afternoon Professor Gwyneth Williams said she wasn’t surprised. Williams was elected Faculty Senate President last semester and will begin the role fall 2013.

“I thought things were maybe sounding a little ominous and I don’t mean ominous in that we were going to close our doors, but that budgets may have to be temporarily cut,” Williams said.

In August, Greg Gunderson, vice president and chief financial officer, told The Journal that budget adjustments were possible if the university didn’t make its revenue projections.

“If we are unable to achieve the revenue numbers that we anticipated, then we as an institution will examine ways to manage within our budget to deliver the numbers we’ve committed to,” Gunderson said in August 2012.

On Sept. 19, 2012, Webster University purchased a house at 8376 Big Bend Blvd. for $385,000, according to BlockShopper.com’s website.

More than 90 percent of Webster’s revenue comes from tuition fees. Paul Carney, Webster University director of enrollment management told The Journal in August that Webster budgeted for 2,178 undergraduate students — a number Webster missed by approximately 100 students.

Williams said she isn’t happy about the budget cuts but would rather the university be “forward thinking.”

“I’m cautiously concerned, I’m not panicked. I’ve been at Webster for 25 years and this has happened before,” Williams said.  “You have years where things go very well and you spend more money and then years when you kind of tighten up.”

The president and provost’s email said the university is taking steps to grow its revenue. Those steps include the new website, new marketing campaign, human resources strategy and discussion with faculty and staff on increasing enrollment.

Williams said she wondered if the hold on travel expenses would affect full-time faculty’s professional development budget. Williams will present a research paper at a conference in late March. She doesn’t believe the hold will affect her attendance because professional development funds are part faculty’s contracts with the university.

Williams said it seems that the cuts don’t directly harm individuals.

“It looks like they are trying to hold expenses that they think will have the least amount of impact on students — which I’m not saying it won’t have any impact,” Williams said.

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