Weber State online classes 02 (copy)

Weber State University finishes up classes on Thursday, March 12, 2020, before the university suspended courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Utah Legislature’s budget cuts last week spared K-12 education for the most part in the upcoming fiscal year, but higher education will take a hit.

Each public university and college in the state is in line for a 2.5% reduction of state funding, a result of across-the-board budget cuts by the state as it grapples with unprecedented amounts of lost revenue due to COVID-19.

For Weber State, the 2.5% reduction equates to $2,451,100.

Weber State’s Vice President for Administrative Services Norm Tarbox, through a university spokesperson, provided some information to the Standard-Examiner on the financial fallout that WSU is preparing for.

“All parts of the university will be affected by this cut. Specific programmatic reductions will not be known for several months,” Tarbox wrote.

Further complicating the situation is enrollment and how much, or if, it drops this fall.

WSU’s enrollment in the third week of the 2019-20 school year was 29,644. As of this week, WSU enrollment is 4.5% below average heading into this fall, per a university spokesperson. If that figure were to hold by the start of fall classes, a 4.5% percent drop would equate to 1,334 less students.

Based on Weber State’s 2019-20 in-state tuition and student fees rates of $5,986 per two semesters, even an enrollment drop of 400 students would net a similar $2.4 million loss, and that’s not counting any out-of-state or international students who might decide against attending WSU this school year.

The university has reserve funds that it expects to use to deal with the budget cut, but it won’t cover all of the damage.

Tarbox indicated that the university doesn’t expect or intend to cut classes, but it’s unclear which specific university programs and functions are in the firing line.

“We are experiencing a double whammy right now — with COVID-19 response and State budget cuts,” Tarbox wrote. “It isn’t possible to accurately attribute the use of reserve funds to one or the other — particularly since our COVID-19 response is ever evolving and open-ended at this point. And CARES Act funding helps cover some but not all of our issues. Given all of this, it is probably fair to say we will burn through roughly $2 million in reserve funding during this period. But it is for times like these that we have reserve funds.”

Tarbox expects around 20-25 open jobs won’t be filled and indicated the university doesn’t anticipate layoffs; however, he wrote that staff and faculty positions “will be reduced.”

According to Tarbox, the university expects some employees will leave voluntarily, as occurs every year, and there also will be some “departmental reorganizations.”

“But we are confident that these reductions will be voluntary, and that no program will be dramatically impacted,” Tarbox wrote.

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