Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Midway College says its budget is likely to stay balanced despite another decline in enrollment

By Midway Messenger Staff

Amid yet another decrease in enrollment, Midway College announced last Thursday that it had a balanced budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014 and said it is likely to stay that way.

The school experienced an 18 percent decrease in enrollment from 2012 to 2013, and said in a press release that it had declined this fall to 1,140 students from 1,362, a drop of nearly 17 percent. The loss was entirely in the what the press release called the nationally declining “non-traditional market” for students over age 24, or the college's coeducational programs. The Women's College enrollment went up by two students, to 294.

Dr. John Marsden, president
"Enrollments are of course a significant part of looking at the vitality of an institution. However they do not, and cannot, tell the entire picture," college President John P. Marsden said in a press release. He said "fundraising, budgeting, managing expenses and sound business practices all impact the bottom line," and the college is likely to have a balanced budget in the current fiscal year.

Marsden said in the release that he was unaware of the budget issues when he was hired in February 2013. "I was incorrectly told there would be a balanced budget," he said. "Once on campus, I discovered significant budget issues and we immediately took action."

To balance the budget, Marsden and college trustees were faced with a number of difficult decisions. Perhaps the toughest was the release of 14 faculty members and 16 staffers in the fall of 2013, as well as suspending contributions to faculty retirement accounts. According to Marsden, a balanced budget would not have been possible without these changes.

Seven of the former faculty members, all from the School of Business, filed a lawsuit against the college alleging breach of contract and age discrimination. The suit claim the terminations failed to consider seniority, special skills and job performance, as well as failing to involve the former faculty members in any discussions about the supposed financial hardships. The case is pending.

The press release focused on the positive developments that helped the college climb out of its deficit of $1.8 million, such as the partnership with a Panamanian government agency that will send the college 26 students per year for a college readiness program at full tuition.

Other changes use to balance the budget included outsourcing dining and physical-plant services, creating a new tuition payment process, improving collections, suspending the match for employee retirement funds, and greater fundraising efforts. It said fundraising other than estate gifts was up 60 percent in the recently ended fiscal year.

The release made nothing more than a footnote of the reason the college ran into trouble in the first place. It said the 2012-13 fiscal year "was a year of recovery from substantial losses for Midway College from discontinued pursuit of a School of Pharmacy and misaligned spending during periods of declining enrollment." For more on that, click here.

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