U of I faces a looming shortfall: $14 million and growing

The University of Idaho will have to erase a $14 million shortfall this budget year — and that’s not the end of the cost-cutting.

Based on current enrollment and enrollment projections, the university will likely see an $8 million drop in revenues from tuition by 2021-22, U of I President Scott Green said in a lengthy memo to the university community last week.

And with this $22 million shortfall looming, Green said, the U of I will make this year’s budget cuts permanent — and still might need to lay off staffers, cut salaries, impose furloughs or eliminate some academic programs.

“The bottom line is this: we have been living beyond our means, and we don’t have enough resources in reserve,” Green wrote.

This year’s cuts come on the heels of a $5 million spending cut in 2018-19, which predated Green’s July 1 arrival as president. Those cuts didn’t completely cover last year’s shortfall, and the university used budget reserves to cover the remaining $14 million.

When Green arrived as president, he said, he began meeting with deans, vice presidents and other U of I administrators, seeking $14 million in one-time spending cuts.

“I am proud that, almost without exception, our team put the interests of the university first,” Green wrote. “We are now almost four months into implementing these plans, we are on target, and I appreciate the commitment our community has made to meet this fiscal year’s budgetary goals while also maintaining the quality education, outreach and research for which we are known.”

Green also said he has put together a “Sustainable Financial Model Working Group” to work on budget issues. The group —including faculty, staff, students and “content experts outside the university” — met for the first time in October and will meet again Nov. 12.

More reading: Idaho Education News’ in-depth profile of Green. And more on the U of I budget shortfall from Justyna Tomtas of the Lewiston Tribune.

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