Enrollment Raises Funding Concerns

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise faces budget cuts after an enrollment decline for the fall 2017 semester. 

UVa-Wise Vice Chancellor Sim Ewing said the college’s overall budget depends on a combination of funding sources, many of which depend on the number of students paying tuition and the other costs of attending the institution.

“The overall budget is made up of other budgets; they combine to make one big budget.” Ewing said. UVa-Wise only receives government funding from the academic side of the budget. The auxiliary side of the budget comes from student housing, dinning, bookstore, athletics and other categories funded by students, he said.

The total budget is about $42 million and the auxiliary side has to pay a fee to the academic side of 18 percent, said Ewing. The state pays $15 million of that total.

“Fifty-six percent of the budget is based off of enrollment,” Ewing said.

Ewing said that the colleges surrounding the Southwest Virginia region face a range of economic challenges including declining population and changes in population demographics that affect enrollment.

Enrollment for higher education is decreasing because demographics for K-12 enrollment in the Commonwealth are stagnant, he said.

“Right now, we are trailing our enrollment forecast for this coming fall,” Ewing said.

Over the past four years the annual full time equivalent has decreased. 2015 saw the largest decrease by 7 percent.

The full time student headcount has had a substantial decrease since 2012. The decrease in enrollment this year is common, however with continual decrease the college will see slight changes in the budget.

The enrollment and budget declines this fall will impact different campus programs, Ewing said, including some positions being left vacant.

“We’re looking at the ways to minimize the impact, so that it doesn’t impact the quality of education and the quality of services offered,” Ewing added.

Student clubs and organizations on campus also depend on varying degrees of college funding, and the enrollment situation may impact those funds.

“I don’t think you’re going to see anything chopped away,” Ewing said, “but I think you may get 95 percent of your budget, you may get 90 percent of your budget, just depending on how enrollment goes.”

Ewing says that if enrollment stays down this year, and graduation levels stay the same, the college will “need more new students to maintain level.”  Ewing continued, “I hope that we at minimum maintain level given the other perimeters, enrollment levels will go down.”

“Fifty or 55 percent of our students come from southwest Virginia.  I think it makes the work that the college is doing in economic development more essential because we have to help stabilize that local economy so that we’ll start getting an influx of more youthful demographics.”

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