The Western Oregon University Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved the adjusted fiscal year 2021 budget, which required an update based on actual enrollment numbers for fall 2020.
The previous FY21 budget, initially adopted at the board’s June meeting, had been based on a projected enrollment decrease of 2.5%. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and many other factors, actual enrollment was down about 7.9%. The new budget reflects the resultant decrease in revenue—as well in financial shortfalls caused by a shift to mostly remote instruction—and details how cuts in spending, salaries and other expenses will cover the deficit.
“These are extremely challenging times in higher education, and Western is not alone in having to make difficult decisions for the current and future success of the university,” said President Rex Fuller. “The board charged us with aligning our budget and personnel expenses to reflect current enrollment realities, and together, that is what we accomplished. Frankly, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do as president.”
The board also discussed the outlook for fall 2021 enrollment, which nationwide is trending well behind previous years. Admissions applications have been slower to roll in, and the Admissions department shared its innovations to help simplify the process for prospective students, including dropping the application fee and allowing students to self-report their GPAs during this time.
“Western is committed to making a college degree accessible for all students, especially in the age of COVID when even simple tasks, such as ordering an official high school transcript, can be difficult,” explained VP for Student Affairs Gary Dukes. “We appreciate the board’s support for these changes to help us reach as many high school seniors and transfer students as possible.”
Also at the meeting, the board:
- Heard an enrollment update from Fuller regarding WOU:Salem. Enrollment has doubled year over year since 2019, when WOU:Salem first started offering courses. There were 148 students in fall 2019 and 296 students in fall 2020.
- Learned that WOU Sponsored Projects had been granted $12,787,316 in external funding thanks to 55 different proposals in 2020.
- Reviewed the latest iteration of the 2020 Fall Safe Operation and Instructional Plan, the university blueprint for safe operation following state requirements around COVID-19. The board had approved the plan in August and received an update Wednesday on continued adherence to the plan.
- Discussed the current draft of the Board Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Accessibility.
- Trustees met in executive session to discuss the presidential search.