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University of Akron layoffs and budget cuts go deeper
School facing $40 million budget deficit

Mark Urycki
The University of Akron saw a massive growth in enrollment and in campus construction in the last decade.
Courtesy of MARK URYCKI
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In The Region:
University of Akron officials are going back to their departments asking them to tighten their belts.The school is cutting its budget by about $40 million and laying off dozens more staff as well.
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The University began planning budget cuts in June when its projected budget deficit looked to be more than $29 million. But now that autumn enrollment is down a full 6 percent, the deficit is around $40 million and more layoffs are planned.

The board voted Wednesday to lay off 18 more staff members and university Chief Financial Officer David Cummins says that could go as high as 40 layoffs as departments are being asked to cut their budgets. This is on top of budget cuts earlier this year, including eliminating 100 positions, about half of which were unfilled.

“We started with an 8 percent goal and from there we evaluated what we could really do and what we couldn’t.”

The biggest driver was enrollment
“When the federal stimulus went away we lost about 14 percent of our state support. We went from $105 million to $95 million in state support.That happened when we had fairly significant enrollment growth and so the thought was we could use our enrollment to absorb that over time.”

Butenrollment went flat, then down a total of 10 percent in the two following years. 

The chairman of Akron’s trustees, Cleveland attorney Dick Pogue, told the board that he at talked to “at least five state legislators and in each case they were shocked” to hear that Ohio ranks 46th in per capita funding to higher education. One of the school’s lobbyists, Lisa Dodge, told the trustees that the funding higher education is not a priority right now for the Legislature. University President Luis Proenza says many factors created the budget deficit, but state funding was a big one.

“Unfortunately education isn’t at the highest level of priority. We believe we play a much more important role than most people in than most people in the Legislature think. The governor seems to understand part of it, but it’s not his decision alone to make.”

The university did give 2 percent raises to faculty this year despite the budget crunch. Proenza says that decision was “both appropriate and pragmatic.”

The university president also says the number of applications indicate that Akron will likely see a jump in enrollment next year.

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