BOWLING GREEN — A consultant’s review of Bowling Green State University offered cost-cutting and revenue-grabbing ideas, such as attracting nontraditional and online students, streamlining services, and increasing class size.
The university projected a $3 million to $10 million budget shortfall over the next several years because of declining enrollment and state funding changes.
University President Mary Ellen Mazey has said she doesn’t want to offset the funding drop with tuition increases. Instead, the university has looked to budget cuts and new revenue sources.
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Hours before the consultant’s report Wednesday to a packed ballroom at the Bowling Green student union, the university announced it would freeze tuition and fees for the 2014-15 academic year.
Ms. Mazey said the decision not to increase tuition was made with “student affordability” in mind. In-state tuition and fees will hold steady at $10,606 for the upcoming year at the main campus in Bowling Green.
The university paid Accenture $500,000 to find ways to save money and bring in more revenue. Consultants presented 22 recommendations Wednesday that target a half dozen areas of university operations.
Implementing the changes would result in an estimated $53 million to $90 million net benefit and an increase of 1,500 to 3,000 students over five years, according to the report. The university's total operating budget is about $294 million for fiscal year 2014.
The report’s highlights include embracing technology changes, attracting more nontraditional students with evening and weekend courses, eliminating some computer labs, and adding more online courses for “flexible, self-paced, year-round” offerings.
One recommendation is to reduce “supervisory layers” by widening the ratio between supervisors and those who report to them. The average BGSU ratio is one supervisor for every three direct reports; consultants recommended an average of one to six.
“This is our plan for BGSU to become more efficient as an organization and to enhance our revenues to ensure the long-term success of this great university,” Ms. Mazey said of the report. “Our goal is to provide a quality education that adds value to each and every student who attends and graduates from BGSU and to do so in a very cost-effective manner.”
David Jackson, BGSU Faculty Association president, questioned the savings that consultants said their recommendations would generate.
“These are very nearly made-up numbers, it seems to me, to justify spending half a million dollars,” Mr. Jackson said. “It just seemed like a lot of code words for cutting the number of employees.”
He also criticized a recommendation to increase class sizes and cut some general education courses.
Minimum class enrollments vary by college and course level. The present minimum size ranges from 13 to 20 students for undergraduate courses, university spokesman David Kielmeyer said. Consultants recommended a minimum of 20 to 25 students per general education lecture course.
“How dare they come here and tell us how many students we should be teaching in a class,” Mr. Jackson said. “That was professionally offensive to all the faculty.”
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The recommendation to boost online offerings to enhance revenue concerned him because he said it doesn’t appear to consider the academic value of online, self-paced classes.
Ms. Mazey said BGSU doesn’t have as many students enrolled in online courses as other universities, an area it could enhance.
The report does not specify how many job cuts would result from implementing the suggestions. Ms. Mazey said the university would try to absorb losses through attrition.
The unveiling of the consultant’s recommendations follows the university’s recent decision to not renew contracts next year for about 40 faculty members, according to union officials. BGSU cited budget shortfalls as the reason.
Committees made up of faculty, staff, students, and administrators will be formed by January to examine the recommendations and oversee implementation in each area of university operations.
Gail Houtz, chairman of the BGSU Classified Staff Council which represents more than 600 classified employees, said council members will participate in the upcoming steps.
“We’re really looking forward to collaborating with President Mazey and forming the working groups and being a part of that to help move the process forward,” she said. “We’ve been very appreciative of the collaboration thus far.”
The university will hold forums in the spring semester to gather input on recommendations, some of which could take three to five years to implement, Ms. Mazey said.
Contact Vanessa McCray at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.