WOU's budget calls for faculty increase

MONMOUTH -- Western Oregon University will devote significant funding increases toward faculty personnel levels next school year.

MONMOUTH -- Western Oregon University will devote significant funding increases toward faculty personnel levels next school year.

That might be the notable item in the university's $47.3 million budget for 2008-09, which takes effect this week.

State appropriations will account for $20.4 million of the total operating revenue, while student fees and tuition, schedules for which were approved by the Oregon University System (OUS) in June, will bring in $24.7 million. Investments, sales, grants and other sources comprise the balance.

It was just a few years ago that Western was digging its way out of a $3 million deficit. "Hard work" toward increasing enrollment -- domestic and international -- and improving retention have facilitated the turnaround, said university President John Minahan.

"Everybody here has helped," Minahan said of staff and faculty, "at a time when state revenue support has declined."

Western is anticipating a fund balance of 15 percent -- $6.8 million -- of the year's operating revenue, in accordance with an OUS policy.

The state recommends a 5- to 15-percent fund balance as insurance against unforeseen financial problems and to deter excessive surplus.

Western's benchmark is between 10 and 20 percent because of its four-year tuition guarantee, the only such system in Oregon.

One revenue boost came as a result of accounting changes: Western altered its old practice of not recognizing unrealized interest income for past due accounts until that amount was received. The net impact was a one-time increase of $430,000.

Western's expenses are 11.6 percent higher than the previous year's because of higher personnel costs and additions to support increased enrollment.

Salaries and benefits account for 80 percent of the total budget. Because of union agreements last year, there will be an overall 3.7 percent increase in the faculty's pay scale and 3.2 percent for classified staff.

The university will spend about $520,000 for 13 new tenure and tenure track faculty to its liberal arts and education colleges. This includes professors in political science, teacher education and assessment, creative arts and physical education.

There will also be two biology and chemistry instructors to support Western's undergraduate component for the new nursing program.

Other additions to departments include $111,000 to the Writing Center, part of which will go toward programming to aid international/bilingual students, and $71,000 for a new planner for the Physical Plant.

Western's athletic department budget rose by $176,000 or 25 percent. Much of that is due to restructured contracts for full-time coaches and trainers; they'll be moved from a nine-month to 12-month pay schedule.

Jon Carey, athletic director, said the move would aid in finding top coaching candidates and summer recruitment of athletes.

Many summer recruitment activities were being done "on their (coaches') own time and out of pocket," Carey said. "This is kind of getting us to where everybody else is."

The department will also enhance the women's softball facilities, hire an assistant athletic director and hire an assistant coach who will double as an admissions counselor.

The university will roll its technology resource fee into overall tuition costs as part of an OUS mandate to avoid the perception of "hidden" higher education costs.

A continuing undergraduate in 2007-08 would have paid $96 per credit hour plus a $76 technology flat-fee for the year. The same student will be assessed $105 per credit hour this year.

Western's tuition revenue is based on a projected fall enrollment of about 5,000 students -- 4,621 of whom will be full-time students, said Eric Borst, director of budget and payroll. Enrollment is expected to grow 5 percent next year.


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