University reinstates hiring freeze in light of projected enrollment drop

By on June 7, 2017
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By Shelby Brown–

Initially hoping for a 400-student increase from 2016-17, U of L administration now expects 200 less students for 2017-18. This projection, in addition to state attrition, creates a $6 million revenue deficit, according to Interim Provost Dale Billingsley.

Billingsley announced in an email U of L has temporarily frozen all hiring in an attempt to close the gap.

Billingsley says halting hires will help ensure 2017’s cash balance is positive and help balance the projected 2018 budget. Billingsley hopes state appropriations partnered with the freeze will make up the deficit.  

“On Oct. 1, the Budget Office and I will analyze the university’s progress toward its budget goals and determine if the freeze will continue to a later date,” Billingsley said in the email.

The university’s progress will be reevaluated Oct. 1 by the budget committee to determine if the freeze continues.

“By that time we’ll have some sense of how effective the attrition capture and general funds reallocations have been,” Billingsley said. “Beyond that we’re not yet able to make any prediction of what will happen.”

The freeze affects currently open positions and positions which would open between now and Oct. 1. Student workers will not be affected by the freeze. 

Exceptions to the freeze must be approved by Billingsley and the budget advisory committee in emergency cases only. Such cases constitute those of policy, compliance or “strategic purposes” of the university.

“(We are) working on outline and process used to determining those emergency allocations. That money will be taken from general funds captured that we make in the positions that we hold,” he said.

A hiring freeze was instituted after budget cuts under former President James Ramsey in 2008. At the time, Gov. Steve Beshear called for universities to cut their budgets by three percent. The cuts were statewide, with Kentucky’s state budget down $434 million.

U of L’s recent $48 million budget shortfall threw the university into confusion, bouncing administrators between what they called a hiring “freeze” and “frost.”

According to Billingsley, a “frost” means a position can be returned for every four positions centrally captured. A “freeze” means all vacated positions will be centrally held.

“No one will be hired to fill those positions until we see how we’re doing with the budget,” he said.

Billingsley lifted the hiring freeze in March despite U of L’s $48 million budget shortfall.

Amid the “frost,” so-named in May’s Board of Trustee’s meeting, the university continued pushing enrollment as a revenue source. Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success Jim Begany gave a presentation in April about increasing enrollment. The university aims for yearly enrollment to eventually be 30,000 students, an 8,000 increase in enrollment.

Updated 6/9/17, 5:09 p.m.

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