Wednesday, May 31

Trevecca’s plans to address budget shortfall include tuition increase and staff reduction

By Grace Beckner


The university will increase tuition by 2-3 percent next year, reduce its workforce by 5 percent, freeze employee retirement matching benefits and freeze faculty development money in an effort to make up a $6 million projected budget shortfall, according to University President Dan Boone. 

Boone said the university is still feeling the financial disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and is taking steps to address the budget deficit to bring Trevecca back to where it was pre-pandemic.

“Every strategy we presented to our board in the fall is moving forward,” he said. “I’m optimistic we’ll be back to where we were pre-Covid in about two and a half years.”

But to accomplish this goal, strategic action and sacrifices will have to be made, he said.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, universities saw an estimated 14 percent decline in revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year, with further loss as drops in enrollment, budget freezes and Covid-related expenses continue to add pressure.

Trevecca is seeing the most enrollment impact in its adult programs. As incoming undergraduate classes continue to grow and break records, the master’s programs are still 2-3 years out from being back to normal.

“The pipelines of two and three year adult programs emptied during Covid. Now they are beginning to fill back up,” Boone said. “But it is about a three year recovery process, and we’re coming toward the end of year one.”

Adult programs are currently down 700-800 students, which has a $6-8 million impact on the university budget. This accounts for 10-13 percent of the budget as a whole, said Boone.

“This is normal, it is across the board for all universities that have adult online programs,” Boone said. “And it’s just a Covid reality.”

Boone also said admissions is set to meet its recruitment goal of 400-450 new undergraduate students for this upcoming fall semester. 

“They are meeting the goal. We’re actually ahead of where our record years are,” said Boone. 

The university is also implementing a 2-3 percent tuition increase for the upcoming academic year.

“Our university used to be about 60 percent adult programs in its revenue, and 40 percent traditional undergrad. We’re seeing that shift closer to 50-50 at this point,” Boone said. “So we are intentionally growing our traditional undergraduate program, even as our adult programs have declined.”

This shift from a higher revenue from graduate programs to a more even split from undergraduate and graduate programs means there will be some shifting to accommodate the change. 

Trevecca is set to see a five percent employee workforce reduction in the coming months.

“That is not a massive layoff, the five percent workforce reduction. We have had that naturally in some years,” said Boone. “There were 800 students we were serving and we’re not serving now, so we’ll look for the places where there’s not work to do.”

There is a planned $1.5 million reduction from the $32 million dollar that goes towards paying employees. Boone said this will look like reducing matching retirement benefits, reducing controllable expenses by $1 million, and temporarily freezing programs like the faculty professional development budgets, which is around $200,000.

“The easy way to say this is we have an employee base that was serving 4,124 students. Now we have about 3,300 students,” said Boone. “So what we’re doing is we are right-sizing our employee base to serve the amount of students we have.”

Even with the damage to the library back in December, Boone is not worried about it derailing any financial plans.

“We don’t even know what the numbers are yet. The insurance company has not given us a total damage number. We know that we’ll have some deductible, but we are also a part of a consortium that will cover some of that deductible,” said Boone. “The work is going on already, but this is not going to be a major financial setback for us because we have good insurance.”

Boone said the university’s financial strategy is moving forward with the addition of the new nursing program, the recent hiring of a coach for the new stunt team, the continued search for a lacrosse coach, and potential students visiting campus.

“I’m very optimistic, it’s not doom and gloom, and nobody’s paycheck is in jeopardy,” said Boone. “I think we stewarded our resources well through Covid in a way that provided us with the cash reserves we needed to guide us through the plan for the next couple of years. We’re okay.”

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