TTU faculty and staff recently received more bad news from university President Phil Oldham. For the second year running, unanticipated budget reductions were announced. For the current 2016-17 year the reductions amounted to over $3 million dollars and for 2017-18 they are reported to be $2.6 million. The cuts will be spread between instructional and non-instructional activities. The main reasons for the latest revenue shortfalls are said to be the continued decline in student tuition money (especially from declining foreign student enrollment) and excessive scholarship awards. Overall student enrollment today has fallen to levels last seen in 2010. The impact of these cuts on the university’s ability to teach and service its students has already been felt as academic and administrative departments have had to forego hiring while some administrative departments struggle with fewer staff employees. All of this has demoralized many faculty and staff and undermined the university’s core mission of providing effective education.
Greatly complicating TTU’s fiscal position is the fact that higher echelon administrative posts—those that come with large and growing salaries and questionable roles–have blossomed under the current administration. There is now at TTU a Vice President for Research and Economic Development who is paid $305,000; an Associate Vice President For Strategic Research Initiatives who oversees what was TTU’s Water Center (although this person has no background in water-related matters) and is paid$160,000; a Special Assistant to the President for Strategy who receives $174,700; and a Vice President for University Advancement that receives $200,000. The Vice President for Planning and Finance receives $200,000, a salary that has increased by 55% (from $128,700) in about five years. Many have questioned what some of these positions contribute even as they represent huge, fixed administrative costs. Particularly difficult to justify is that substantial administrative raises have followed what many see as poor performance on the part of TTU administrators and as reflected in the continued and ‘unanticipated’ budget shortfalls. It is not likely that the foreign student enrollment decline—driven by students from largely Islamic countries—will reverse itself in the current climate; nor will overall student enrollment likely surge given the access to free community college education. If belt tightening is called for, many TTU faculty and staff increasingly think it’s high time to rein in administrative glut and redirect resources toward providing education instead of highly paid employment for multitudes of vice presidents.
Jon Jonakin, Emeritus Professor of Economics, TTU
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