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Is SCSU’s Financial Roadmap Taking It to a Good Place?
by Silence Dogood

On December 12, 2013, the following “public budget” for SCSU appeared on the website for the Office of Finance and Administration:

This document is certainly less than complete and it does not match prior documents released by the administration.

If you look at the MnSCU website under Management Reports and select the report category Finance, it is possible to see the “Projected Fund Balances” for each MnSCU institution. The following report was obtained for SCSU for FY14:

While I claim no financial expertise other than being able to balance my checkbook, the number on the bottom right of the page is a bit scary–it shows a deficit of $9,515,358. It is hard to imagine that a big red number here is a good thing.

Looking back at the projected balance for FY09 through FY14, the projected balances are shown in the following figure:

Clearly, the trend from FY09 through FY12 is going in a good direction for SCSU. For FY13, it appears that the net projected balance declined slightly but was still positive to the tune of $37,300,000. However, it is scary to see a projected deficit of $9,500,000. The difference from FY13 to FY14 amounts to a change of $46,900,000.

One can only hope that this is not complete data for FY14 and that there is additional revenue that will be added as the year proceeds. However, omitting FY12, the projected balance for FY14, based on the extrapolation of the results for FY09 through FY13, should be approximately $40,000,000. If indeed the projected balance is positive to the tune of $40,000,000 why would the administration present at Meet and Confer on September 5, 2013 and again on October 9, 2013 a document showing a deficit of $2,861,117?

The only thing that is clear is the budget information provided to the Faculty Association has been less than “open and transparent.” Considering that Moorhead has eliminated 41 faculty positions with six faculty being retrenched and Bemidji and Southwest are facing financial challenges of their own, it would be useful to have good financial data for making decisions.

The decision to close the Aviation Program at SCSU was made using financial data that was clearly erroneous—the flight simulators were erroneously considered as an expense to the university when they were actually paid for by the students themselves. Additionally, even the data on the number of students graduating from the program was not correct. It was nice to see President Potter provide data on the number of graduates from the aviation program at the last Meet and Confer on December 12, 2013:

The number of graduates from aviation has consistently averaged just over thirty-five (35.6) graduates a year in the thirteen years reported. Even over the last five years, the number of graduates was twenty-nine (29.0). In light of the significant overall decline in enrollment at SCSU the past three years, it is hard to understand why the university wants to send students to the University of North Dakota. It is even more troubling when it is understood that the vast majority of programs at SCSU do not average twenty-nine graduates a year.

Let’s hope that SCSU gets a better financial roadmap and that the financial and enrollment results are better than the recent past. If program closure is going to be part of a budget-balancing plan at SCSU, there is great deal of work that needs to be done.

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One Response to “St. Cloud State’s budget battle continues”

  • Patrick-M says:

    One has to wonder why a cost-effective, successful program was led out to the chopping block. Perhaps the Administration (read Dean) had a personal agenda to resolve and/or was given a marching order – ‘find me a sacrificial lamb’. Inquiring minds want to know.

    Note: In the last paragraph this sentence, I think, should read average number of graduates was twenty-nine (29.0); not total number of…

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