ST. CLOUD, Minn. — St. Cloud State University is facing a budget deficit of as much as $10 million because of a fourth straight year of declining enrollment.
Enrollment may have dipped by up to 5 percent this fall, but university officials won't know until the end of the month, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/1u4NfBD ). Nearly every institution in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is expecting enrollment declines.
St. Cloud State hopes to close the budget gap through a two- to three-year plan that includes the use of reserve funds and a 5 percent cut of all non-personnel budgets.
The school's president, Earl H. Potter III, said Thursday that the university will also implement a year-long "flexible hiring freeze" in response to the deficit. The freeze won't apply to contractual or grant-based positions, student employment, teaching assistants and other jobs that are vital to the university's growth and success.
Potter said the amount of staff and faculty at the university has remained the same throughout the past four years, while enrollment declined. But he said the university isn't currently considering layoffs or retrenchment.
Faculty Association President Roland Specht-Jarvis said the university should consider management decisions as potential causes of the budget deficit.
"We probably have to shrink," he said. "My concern is that when a crisis like this hits, that all of the people who are in the boat, stay in the boat."
Although Specht-Jarvis wants to protect St. Cloud State employees and students, he said layoffs and program cuts will likely be factored into reducing the deficit in the future.
"I'm not saying I'm happy about it," he said. "I'm saying I don't see a different solution."
Budget cuts alone will not fix the deficit, Potter said, but he hopes new programs announced in the fall will help boost enrollment and student retention.
The university saw deficits of nearly $6 million in 2011 and $13 million in 2012, which led to program cuts and reductions in staff.