Funding Higher Education

The university and the state allocate financial support for higher education in the budget.

Vice President for Administration and Finance Sam Domiano discussed the university budget and enrollment.

“Fall enrollment remains relatively stable with our largest class of incoming freshmen in the past decade,” said Domiano. “Enrollment plays a critical role in the budget as approximately 75 percent of our operating budget comes from self-generated revenues, which are primarily student tuition and fees.  We are extremely pleased that students continue to select Southeastern and its impressive array of academic programs for their educational journeys. As always, we strive to foster a campus environment that nurtures dynamic student experiences as we work diligently to recruit, retain, progress and graduate students so they can confidently contribute to society and create the workforce of the future.”

Domiano cited “Summer Smart” for helping fund the budget.

“We are pleased to report that summer school enrollment increased,” said Domiano. “We expect much of this increase is attributed to the ‘Summer Smart’ initiative, which reduced net cost for a three-credit hour course to less than $900 while at the same time expanding course offerings and increasing the number of online and hybrid courses. This increase propelled enrollment in an upward trajectory, reversing the previous summer enrollment trend and having a direct, positive impact on self-generated revenues.”

 

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According to Department Head of Accounting and Finance Dr. Robert Braun, this year’s state budget prioritizes higher education more than past budgets.

“Fundamentally, I believe that greater awareness and vision for the role of higher education in preparing the state’s workforce for the future is the key,” said Braun. “In a society that views institutions of higher education with increasing skepticism, we need to make the value proposition of a degree from Southeastern more clear. The best way to do that is to keep our focus on helping students to learn and grow so that they can be our advocates within the communities they serve.”

Domiano discussed the university’s financial support from the state.

“While it is too early to speculate if state appropriations will remain intact through the end of the current fiscal year, we remain pleased that there was no reduction in state support at the outset of the current fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade,” said Domiano. “At this time, we remain cautiously optimistic that mid-year reductions will not materialize, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Braun examined flaws in the state budget.

“I am no expert on the current funding formula for higher education,” said Braun. “It seems, though, that there are structural elements of the process that make it especially vulnerable to the state’s trials and tribulations. Health care and education seem to be the only ‘negotiable’ parts of the state’s budget.”

Braun shared his thoughts on the university budget.

“Southeastern’s budget is complex,” said Braun. “We have a budget office of highly skilled accountants and financial managers who are dedicated to understanding the myriad of rules and procedures that help us to be responsible stewards of the funds that we raise through tuition, donations, grants and state allocations. I see my job as a department head, first and foremost, to be an advocate for the quality of the educational experience of all students who take accounting and finance classes at Southeastern. In order to do that, I need to have qualified faculty who are engaged and motivated to create those quality educational experiences. Fortunately, the faculty we have are intrinsically motivated by the mission. That can only last for so long, though. We need the budget to help us to sustain our work in support of the mission and to help us to attract new faculty who will help us to grow.”

The university budget included merit-based pay raises for faculty and staff for the first time since the fiscal year 2009-2010.

“We are pleased we were able to provide pay increases for the first time in multiple years to those faculty and staff who qualified,” said Domiano.

Braun believes this year’s budget shows more support for faculty.

“One thing that has not wavered over the years is the commitment that my colleagues have shown to providing quality, relevant learning experiences for students,” said Braun. “There has to be a limit to how many times we can draw upon this commitment, however. This year’s budget helps to signal appreciation for the dedication that faculty have shown in the face of adverse financial circumstances.”

Braun discussed what the budget means to different people.

“On the one hand, the budget is an expression of spending priorities and a plan to utilize the resources available to an organization,” said Braun. “That is the context in which I have answered most of your questions. On the other hand, the budget is a tool to promote discipline in spending decisions and to measure performance in meeting goals. On yet another hand, the budget is a means of coping with unforeseen contingencies. The state’s ‘rainy day fund’ is an example of this aspect. Given that the state seems to be operating in a perpetual state of crisis, it has dipped deep into this fund.”

 

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