What UMD’s budget cuts mean to students

 Illustration by: Megan Rowe

Illustration by: Megan Rowe

With UMD facing a $5.4 million deficit going into the next fiscal year, Chancellor Lendley Black recently announced a budget model that is meant to get the institution out of the deficit by 2023. UMD will reduce its budget by $600,000 in the fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1.

Fernando Delgado, executive Vice Chancellor of academic affairs at UMD, said that while the long-term effects of this budget plan are difficult to project and predict, students should not notice any huge effects in the short term.

“This year we cut $2 million out of the instruction budgets, and the only thing that was sacrificed was the Russian studies minor,” Delgado said. “Nothing else academically was harmed. In the next year or two, particularly if I look at academic majors, I don’t really see them going away in the way that some other schools in the region have talked about.”

Starting in 2020, UMD plans to make cuts that could range from $1 million to $1.5 million - less than one percent of the total budget - mostly affecting academic affairs, student life, finance and operations and the Chancellor’s unit. The exact amounts could fluctuate depending on revenues and expenses, although Delgado said that academic affairs are expected to take the biggest cuts.

According to Lynne Williams, marketing and public relations director at UMD, academic affairs takes up the largest chunk of UMD’s budget, which means they are proportionally likely to take a bigger cut. However, she also made it clear that this budget plan, rather than simply being about cuts, is focused around reallocating funds and resources towards UMD’s strengths.

“This isn’t about just the cuts, it’s about aligning those strengths,” Williams said. “I believe that all of this will leave the campus much stronger in the long run because these are good conversations for us to have and it’s a better way for us to serve students when we’re able to reallocate those resources.”

When asked where he sees strengths in UMD to which these funds can be best utilized, Delgado said that the university is working to determine how they can make the best impact possible on students.

“The pressure that I’m putting out there on the deans for example is, tell me what best defines the strengths of your college,” Delgado said. “Within the academic support areas, working with the leadership team there to identify what those key services are that really make an impact on students, and that’s what we build our identity around.”

In 2014, UMD’s annual shortfall reached as high as $9.4 million due to an enrollment decline that occurred while UMD’s state funding allocation was decreased. Since then, the university has continued to work to reduce the deficit each year.

“I think we’ve been able to manage it to the point where we’ve had as minimal impact on students as possible,” Williams said.

 Fernando Delgado, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs, says he is optimistic that UMD will be out of the deficit by 2023. Photo by Brett Groehler.

Fernando Delgado, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs, says he is optimistic that UMD will be out of the deficit by 2023. Photo by Brett Groehler.

According to Delgado, the new Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building (CAMS) won’t really affect the budget, as its biggest liability in the budget is related to maintenance and support. He said that the CAMS building will allow UMD to shift faculty and support services in order to make it easier for students to gain access to resources that they need. Delgado also said that the CAMS building will open up more academic opportunities for students.

“I think the benefit of CAMS is that it’s going to allow us to work on a new master’s program,” Delgado said. “It’s going to allow the faculty and students in chemistry and advanced materials science center to do some really interesting and applied research that has a lot of industry applications, so I think it’s going to be tremendous for the Duluth area and for Minnesota.”

UMD plans to continue its innovation over the next five years and will add more programs if needed.

Both Delgado and Williams stressed the importance of students who contact state lawmakers in order to advocate for support for UMD.

“Students who are able to talk vocally to state lawmakers about the importance of investing in UMD, their voice carries a lot of weight and it’s really important for students who care about the campus and want to see the campus continue to flourish to make sure that they make that known,” Williams said.

NewsTyler Schendel