Minot State University is facing a $1.85 million budget shortfall and must trim 3 percent again from next year's base budget, said President David Fuller, who said the university is still suffering the aftershocks of the devastating Souris River Flood of 2011.
The university had a $2 million shortfall for this year and shaved 3 percent from this year's budget. Last year Fuller had announced that 3 percent would have to be cut from the base budget each year for two years to address the budget shortfalls.
"Nobody on campus is surprised (by this) at all," said Fuller.
Fuller said the university had a 2.5 percent decline in student enrollments this year after looking at a nearly 7 percent decline last year. The university had been warned to expect enrollment drops following the flood that would take years to recover from.
Fuller said the cuts in next year's budget will have to come from a number of areas. The university will avoid filling open positions, cut the budget used to hire adjunct faculty, look at operations cost, hold back on new technology purchases and also take a close look at making class offerings more efficient. Fuller said a faculty committee will be asked to look at "prioritizing programs on campus." Classes with more than one section that have small enrollments might be consolidated into one class; classes that have been offered each semester might be offered every other semester. The goal would be to increase efficiency in areas where it is possible without affecting the quality of the program.
Fuller said he thinks the university could make a good case for seeking additional funding from the state Legislature to help offset a budget shortfall that is largely due to the flood. Any such appeal would have to be made with the approval of the university system chancellor and the state board of education, he said. Fuller pointed out that the university saved three university buildings from being flooded and also housed National Guard members and the Red Cross on campus during the flood.
The drop in student numbers impacts not just the university but also the Minot community as a whole, said Fuller, since students work and live in Minot. He said there are about 350 fewer students now and that loss is bound to have a ripple effect throughout the community. Fuller said the university has increased its recruiting efforts to try to increase enrollment. Without the flood, enrollment would not have gone down, said Fuller, since before the flood, the university had done an excellent job of retaining students.
A severe housing shortage in Minot has been one major factor in the enrollment decline, said Fuller, but he hopes that more apartments being built will eventually ease that problem.