President addresses ‘decade of lost funding’ at budget forum

President Rosenberg says FIU is anticipating a 4 percent budget cut and will likely raise tuition in fiscal year 2010-11. He also fielded questions — and asked a few of his own — at the April 12 event.

By Karen A. Cochrane

“If ever there was a year to keep your eye on education, this is it.”

With that prescient observation, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg welcomed students, faculty and staff to his first budget forum. In a presentation that examined the university’s shrinking state funding and increasing reliance on alternate sources of revenue, Rosenberg said FIU is likely facing a 4 percent budget cut in fiscal year 2010-11.

“We’ve lost $64 million in this budget calamity since fiscal year 2007-08,” he said.

The president congratulated the FIU community for its creation years ago of a multi-year plan of phased budget cuts, an action that has saved the university from furloughs and having to make catastrophic cuts in any one year. Additionally, he commended the university’s move to make cuts that were strategic rather than across-the-board and acknowledged the pain felt as a result of that decision.

The president said FIU likely won’t see its funding rise again to 2006-07 levels until 2017.

“Basically, we’ve lost a decade of funding.”

Rosenberg made his remarks as part of an April 12 budget forum in the Graham Center Ballrooms at Modesto A. Maidique Campus. The event included a live webcast to Biscayne Bay Campus.

President Rosenberg asked faculty member Valerie Patterson how she's enduring these challenging times.

Using graphs to illustrate many of his points, the president said there has been a stunning 44 percent decline from 2000-01 to 2010-11 in FTE funding. Addressing the shifting funding paradigm, Rosenberg said that in FY 2007-08 FIU received $238 million in state support and $107 million from tuition. In FY 2010-11 the state is expected to contribute $174 million to FIU’s operating budget while tuition will account for $146 million. As state support dwindles, revenue from tuition and fundraising becomes increasingly important.

To that end, the university is likely to impose a 15 percent increase in undergraduate resident tuition, a 10 percent increase in graduate resident tuition, and a 15 percent tuition increase for students in the law school and medical school. He also informed the audience that FIU will begin a major capital campaign within the next year. Unlike FIU’s previous capital campaigns, he said faculty and staff will be solicited to donate. Referencing his own decision to contribute $25,000 annually to the university for the first two years of his presidency, Rosenberg said, “If we’re going to talk it, we need to walk it.”

While the financial challenges of the institution dominated the first half of his presentation, Rosenberg spent the second half of the event reminding everyone of the university’s “commitment to entrepreneurship and commitment to excellence.”

He highlighted the work of researchers Nezih Pala and Vagelis Hristidis, both of whom have recently won National Science Foundation Career Awards, and congratulated the students of the Model United Nations team, who earlier this month won the top award at the annual national competition.

He spoke of noteworthy funding secured by Mario de la Rosa, Patricia Barbetta and Osama Mohamed, and said he was proud that the university’s collective promise to assist in Haiti relief efforts was “leading to deeds that will help Haitians get back on their feet, literally and figuratively.” He told the university about a newly forged agreement wherein FIU will help develop a food and wine festival in Qingdao, a major city southeast of Beijing, China, and spoke of the new collaboration between the Honors College and Sweetwater.

At the conclusion of his presentation, he answered questions from the audience.

On the issue of faculty salaries, he turned the mike over to Provost Douglas Wartzok, who said the latest American Association of University Professors salary survey published in The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked FIU first among SUS institutions in its pay to instructors, assistant professors and associate professors. The university ranked third in its pay to professors, with a $6,000 gap separating FIU and the highest-paying SUS institution.

When asked a question about how supervisors were supposed to motivate their employees when they had not received cost-of-living increases in several years, Rosenberg paused before responding.

“How do we manage our own expectations and those of our coworkers and those we lead?” he asked the audience. “My instinct is that salaries are not going to get better anytime soon. You have that challenge for yourself and for those that you lead. I need help on that.” He then asked members of the university to share how they were handling that reality.

James Wassenaar, executive director of Student Affairs Operations and Auxiliary Services (which includes Housing) said, “I try to be there for my employees, and we’re committed to being there for our students. I don’t have the solution other than to show up every day with a smile and put my best foot forward.”

Valerie Patterson, assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration, said she reminds herself that “many others in our community are in a far more dire situation.” Additionally, she said, “Empathy and compassion for the circumstances of your staff are important.”

Honors College Interim Dean Leslie Northup said, “Build a sense of teamwork and team spirit. Be creative in allowing people to explore new responsibilities and opportunities. In my experience most people embrace that.”

To view the president’s full presentation, see below:

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