AU back on financial track

By Glenn Battishill

After hearing stories of budget cuts and hiring freezes, students can sleep soundly knowing that their university is once again safe and financially sound. 

President Dr. Fred Finks explained that several factors lead to the school’s financial trouble.

I could attribute the deficit to three things,” Finks said. “First the lingering effects of a struggling US economy.  Financing college education has become more difficult for parents due to declining values in home equity where many parents go for borrowing and more difficulty in securing loans.  

“Secondly, some of our enrollment numbers were calculated incorrectly giving us a false impression of a larger enrollment.  The error was discovered in late August and corrected, but definitely had an impact on freshmen enrollment.  Third, Issue 2 on the ballot in the State of Ohio caused many education students both undergraduate and graduate to reconsider enrolling.  We experienced a drop in undergraduate education students for the first time in many years.  Also our Master of Education, Bachelor’s Plus and Professional Development all saw a drastic decline in enrollment.  These areas alone created a three million dollar drop in tuition revenue.”

Finks said that Ashland has implemented a double check process to make sure these miscalculations never happen again.

To counteract the revenue drop, Ashland administration enacted a limited budget freeze which meant that only positions deemed important to the school’s mission and positions necessary to maintain the school’s standards could be filled. 

The administration also cut department budgets but first consulted department chairs and deans of the various colleges.

Finks wanted to assure students that the school now has a healthy budget of over $132 million and doubts students would notice the cuts to the budget.

Looking ahead, Finks has a positive outlook on the school’s finances. Finks said the university is continuing to practice conservative fiscal policy and has eliminated a considerable amount of their short-term debt.

Finks said one of the most important things to the university is keeping college costs down.

Keeping college education affordable is something we all are very conscious of in making our decisions,” Finks said. “It would have been easy to simply increase tuition to four or five percent and recapture lost revenue but that was not an option.  We all are concerned that AU’s tuition, room and board is approaching $40,000 (but our financial aid budget of $33,000,000 helps offset that total considerably).  We didn’t want students to have to bear more of the burden, so we increased only 1.1 percent (about $428).” Finks added that no staff raises will be approved in the upcoming year.

While the year may have seemed confusing to some students, Finks and the rest of the Ashland administration have been working to ensure student affordability. 

I want students to know that we are doing everything we can to keep costs low,” Finks said. “Private higher education is a great value and offers some many value added opportunities, which you will not always find in public education.  Private higher education also provides scholarships that lower the cost of obtaining a quality education.  

“Ashland is a great university with a strong base of alumni who believe in our mission and support our endeavors.  Over the past ten years we have invested heavily in new facilities both academic and student oriented.  We intend over the next decade to make even more changes to improve the quality of living at Ashland.  We have an excellent faculty and a collaborative working relationship across the campus.  As one of the top 200 private universities in the US, Ashland will continue to strive toward excellence in all that we do.”