John Clark, president of Western Connecticut State University, is stepping down amid a financial crisis that has led to a 99 percent drop in university reserves in recent years.
Clark, who has been president since 2015, will officially leave on July 14. His resignation follows a no-confidence vote against him by the faculty union in May over equitable financial management issues. Earlier this year, a frightening external report found that the university had “expenditure control problems, not revenue problems.”
The report, commissioned by the Connecticut State College and University System, found a litany of financial errors and no consistent strategy for reaching financial effectiveness. It recommends a number of changes, including a closer look at the current stuffing level. However, faculty members say the report ignores bright issues, including years of state government funding cuts, which have shaken government higher education institutions to survive.
A report by the education consultancy National Center for Higher Education Management Systems found that WCSU’s reserves have declined dramatically over the past decade. It paints a picture of a university that has failed to address its financial problems as its reserves have shrunk from $ 24 million in FY 2012 to “all but disappeared” in FY 2021.
A CSCU system spokesman did not have current statistics on reserves in Western Connecticut.
“Western Connecticut State University is an institution in serious financial straits. It has a structural deficit that has plunged the university into its reserves almost every year for the past decade, “the NCHEMS report said.” The university has no choice but to accept the underlying factors that led to the situation – it is now imperative to work within the limits of a balanced budget. “
Of the four state universities in the Connecticut State College and University system, only West Connecticut has seen a complete decline in its reserves, according to a January report. The other two state universities have increased their reserves since the end of the Great Recession, while Central Connecticut State University has reduced its reserves by about one-third.
Citing interviews with officials, NCHEMS described the administration’s approach to the financial crisis, saying, “We have not had a balanced budget year after year; Why start now? “
High and rising spending levels have led to declining WCSU’s reserves, most of which have staff-related costs, declining enrollment and the coronavirus epidemic, according to NCHEMS, which noted that WCSU’s problems were not due to low funding but over-spending.
But faculty members যারা who think no professor was interviewed for the NCHEMS report করুন make some exceptions to the results, most notably the claim that WCSU was underfunded.
“The biggest problem is that the state of Connecticut has repeatedly cut our budgets. State funding for public universities is dwindling, and Connecticut is unfortunately not unique. Rotua Lumbantbing, a professor of economics in Western Connecticut and president of the WCSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, says state investment in public higher education is indeed an underlying problem.
According to data available in the State Higher Education Finance Report compiled by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, Connecticut has actually dialed funding over the years. Figures from SHEEO show that state allocations have declined by 29.1 percent since 2001, from $ 18,660 per full-time student in 2001 to $ 13,232 in 2021.
Lumbantobing also opposes investigations that suggest that WCSU is spending too much on staff, arguing that staff levels are already weak and “bones have been cut.”
He blamed high staff costs for the administrative blat at WCSU, which the report contradicts.
Lumbantobing also sees system leadership as partly responsible for the current crisis, arguing that it has failed to financially curb Clark’s administration’s proposals because of declining reserves.
“The school has to submit the budget to the system office, to the board of regents Every year they approve it, which means they know the reserves are declining every year. This is not only a bad decision of the local administrators, but also the system office, the Board of Regents should be held accountable for approving this budget every year, “said Lumbantbing.
Leigh Appleby, a spokeswoman for Connecticut State College and University Systems, said in an email that the system leadership has hired NCHEMS to help understand Western Connecticut’s financial problems and help the university return to financial health.
“The Board of Regents for Higher Education and CSCU have long recognized the significant financial pressures facing WCSU and have taken steps to stabilize university budgets, including adopting a pilot program to allow students from New York and New Jersey to join WCSU. An in-state rate, including tax, significantly increases university enrollment, ”Applebee said. “However, the epidemic has already exacerbated significant enrollment and financial challenges. Acknowledging the need for further action, the NCHEMS was set up to review the situation, to recommend immediate action to stabilize the university, and ultimately to provide long-term solutions to the problems facing the West. NCHEMS has produced a preliminary report with immediate recommendations, and CSCU is currently working closely with the WCSU leadership to ensure that they are implemented. A second set of recommendations will be provided by NCHEMS later this year to strengthen the organization’s long-term effectiveness. “
Although a more comprehensive plan is expected from NCHEMS later this year, the initial report made some recommendations, including “the exact size of the roster of officers”. The plan should come from faculty, academic support and student service staff. The report adds that the collective bargaining agreement across the CSCU system makes it difficult to control spending at the campus level and recommends reducing part-time faculty members.
One of the highlights of Western Connecticut is that it is projecting a balanced budget for FY 2023, according to AppleBuy. Board of Regents documents show that WCSU expects a balanced budget with $ 18 million in one-time state funding and another $ 11 million in salary and benefit savings from a recruitment fridge, which includes 73 currently vacant full-time positions. .
For Clark to leave WCSU next month, the CSCU system has appointed an interim in his place. Paul Byrne, now a consultant and former president of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, will step down as president on July 15, facing the challenge of financing the ship financially.
“I look forward to being able to build relationships with all members of the community – especially university teachers and administration,” Beran told a local newspaper. The News-TimesLast week when his interim appointment was announced. “Such issues need to be addressed, but I believe they are entirely possible – and need the help of my faculty and everyone else.”
Beran did not respond to a request for comment via LinkedIn Inside higher ed.
However, his appointment is another cause for concern for Lumbantabing, who noted that Beran is an outsider, unfamiliar with the state university system and campus requirements.
“They have replaced [Clark] With someone here who knows nothing about the system, the West, our problems, our unique situation or our students, “says Lumbantobing. “And [CSCU system leadership] I did not get any input from the faculty and staff. ”
Clark, who did not respond to a request for an interview sent to the university, said he would work to welcome Beran and enable a smooth transition as soon as he takes over the presidency at WCSU.
In an email to the campus community last week, Clark wrote, “I personally welcome Dr. Paul Beran as my successor and our new interim president. In my view, he came at the right time in the history of the university, when we need a new leader with the vision, strength and vision needed to lead the university to financial stability, enrollment growth and student success. “