Just days after cutting the ribbon on the $45-million dollar Claire T. Carney Library renovation project, UMass Dartmouth’s Chancellor Divina Grossman announced a $15-million dollar deficit to the school’s $245 million budget. Unsurprisingly, the announcement has caused a stir in the campus community.
While stopping short of being critical of former Chancellor Jean MacCormack, Grossman placed the blame on year-to-year budget patchwork that could no longer be feasibly continued. Other major factors contributing to the budget situation include potentially inefficient and unproductive campus centers and civic engagement programs that were unfavorable to the university. The chancellor made it clear that a number of solutions are on the table, including adding and removing programs to more adequately meet the demand of existing and future students, restructuring or merging various departments, and completing a full review of existing civic engagement relationships.
The chancellor more controversially pointed to a lack of both growth in student enrollment as well as state funding. In a letter to the editor of the Fall River Herald News, the director of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis, Clyde Barrow, dismissed this claim. Barrow stated that while student enrollment has remained relatively flat, increases in tuition and fees have produced more revenue for the school. This is reflected in the university’s budgets, which have shown revenues from tuition and fees to be on the rise since 2010 from $92 million to $103 million, and in 2013, $107 million. Additionally, Barrow reported that funds appropriated from the state have also risen since 2010. The school was allocated over $60 million by the state in 2013, a drastic rise from the nearly $43 million it received in 2010.
Some skeptics have instead suggested the university focus on restructuring and even cutting a number of administrative positions on campus. Consolidating some of these positions, which often come with heftier six-figure salaries, is seen by many to be more prudent than eliminating teaching positions or introducing an influx of cheaper, part-time lecturers. While she didn’t rule it out completely, Grossman indicated that it is unlikely UMass closes its satellite locations in nearby New Bedford and Fall River.
While many including Barrow have been critical of the news, the tenor of the campus meeting was one of cooperation. There remains ample time for discussion and debate over next year’s budget before the next fiscal year begins in July. In one of her first major appearances in the campus community, Chancellor Grossman promoted transparency and community discourse, while showing her willingness to grapple with difficult issues.