Troy University approves shrinking budget

Published 11:27 pm Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Troy University Board of Trustees approved an annual budget of $225 million during Thursday’s meeting.

“That’s down from $253 million three years ago,” said Chancellor Jack Hawkins.

The university has had to contend with a shrinking budget for several years. It has meant raising tuition, trimming departmental budgets and taking a closer look at the student-teacher ratio on each of its campuses.

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“We attempt to do more with less and are always focused on good stewardship,” said Hawkins. “We’ve probably gotten the most mileage per dollar of any institution in the state.”

Part of that stewardship was to move university funds to Troy University’s foundation in order to make aggressive investments. So far, it has paid off. James Bookout, Troy’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business Affairs, said $10 million earned $2.46 million in about 18 months. Under the old investment policy, it would have made $39,000.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Another part of the stewardship has been increasing scholarship funds. Despite dwindling budget, scholarships increased by 38 percent last year. The university’s tuition has managed to keep pace with other universities in the state. “Looking at tuition costs per credit hours, we’re still the fifth lowest in the state,” said Bookout.

Without additional tuition increases in the future, Bookout said the board would have to look at eliminating some of its programs. He said tuition had room to grow because a Troy education should be priced better than that.

Bookout presented a chart comparing the university’s tuition, fees and government appropriations to eight colleges in the state. “The chart tells me three things,” he said. “Troy does more with less; there’s an unfair appropriations; and of all schools raising tuition, we’re last (the lowest increase).”

Bookout’s research also illustrated Troy is at the bottom of the list of the state’s appropriated funds.

Congress recently committed $5 million to Troy. State Senator and Board Chairman Gerald Dial said the money would be significant to the university’s budget in the coming years because of its wording. “It doesn’t just mean $5 million this year. It’s $5 million to build on every year,” he said.

The university formed a sizing committee to look at the staffing-enrollment ratio on each campus in an effort to tighten expenses. John Dew, senior vice chancellor, presented an update to the board.

“Step one was to meet with each of the college deans and administrators,” he said. “We wanted to push for and confirm 85 funded positions that hadn’t been filled in the last 18 months.”

The committee recommended eliminating the positions. The committee also identified about $2 million that could be taken out the budget by reducing the use of adjunct professors.

The second step was to look at the demographics of the faculty. The group found that more than 200 positions were held by people 62 years and older. To reduce aging faculty and hire younger, cheaper instructors, the group considered offering an incentive to encourage retirement. They decided against it because most would choose to retire on their own in the next few years.

The committee is midway through the third step. Members are reviewing operations of each campus. Their reviews have already led to the elimination of 16 positions that trimmed $560,000 in salaries from the Montgomery campus. The Dothan review has been completed and the group will move on to the Phenix campus. Troy’s main campus will be reviewed this fall.

After hearing from several committees in the course of the meeting, board members expressed appreciation for the work university officials were doing.

“We have been very good at looking ahead and doing the things that keep us there,” said board member Edward Crowell.