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Budget forum raises more questions than answers to aid problems of dwindling state-issued funding

          Administrators emphasized the importance of Ohio University becoming less dependent on dwindling state support and increasing revenues at yesterday's budget forum.

          OU hopes to reduce its reliance on state support by asking department heads to look for areas where they might be able to increase revenues. Next year, students might also see an increase in tuition as one means of revenue generation for OU.

          "One of the things that's important to look at here is that we become more tuition-reliant as the subsidy has decreased over time," said Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost.

          Intercollegiate Athletics is one area where OU hopes to increase revenue, and officials said they would like Athletics to reduce its dependence on the General Fee.

          "We have a very specific initiative with athletics to change its model around and make it less dependent on the General Fee and make it like other athletic departments that are more self-sustaining," said Stephen Golding, vice president for Finance and Administration, adding that OU expects Athletics to increase its fundraising revenues as well as reduce its travel expenses.

          OU must, however, make sure that Athletics can meet the revenue targets suggested by the university, Golding said.

          One professor wondered whether meeting these targets was optional for his department.

          "Can my department not meet its target if it tries?" said Duane McDiarmid, associate professor in the School of Art and faculty senator. "Throughout the language of this ... is that they're being encouraged to do things, and we're being told to do things."

          Although departments might not meet their revenue-raising and cost-cutting targets in certain areas, the bottom line reduction for that department will not change, Benoit said.

          "One of the things that we've done is we've set up targets at particular areas in a planning unit," Benoit said. "One of the things that we've found is that target may not be possible in that particular area. (Departments) may not be able to save on travel to the degree we would want them to, but they would have to save their target in another area as a result."

          OU is preparing for a $27 million reduction in state funding next fiscal year, and university officials said budget-cutting strategies would not become firm until Gov. John Kasich releases his biennial budget draft March 15.

          "We are trying very hard to convince the governor of the value of higher education," Benoit said. "The governor has a lot on his plate at the moment, and we are one of the constituencies working to convince him of the value of our constituency."

          In addition to encouraging departments to raise revenues next year, OU is working to identify classes, services and programs that could be cut, Benoit said in response to a faculty member's question about "doing less with less."

          "How do we make assessments on what we can stop doing? Are there courses with low enrollment, programs we should stop offering, administrative services we could cut?" Benoit said. "All of those questions are always on the table."


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