Ongoing financial issues at the state and university level are forcing Temple to take a hard look at its finances and relationship with Harrisburg.
Temple’s exclusion from the proposed Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act and a cutback in appropriations have Chief Financial Officer Anthony Wagner worried.
“It makes me feel like we’ve got a bit of a bull’s-eye on our backs,” he said. “Is it inconceivable to say that the state could be in a situation in two to three years where they’re saying, ‘Temple, we can’t afford to fund you at this level anymore’?”
The university has already cut its budget by 5 percent, and Wagner said further cuts would seriously hurt Temple. The administration is trying to minimize the impact of the cuts on students and Temple’s academic services as much as possible.
Wagner said there will be layoffs, but tenure and tenure-track professors will be protected. There will be layoffs on the administrative side. Adjuncts who teach one or two classes a year could also be subjected to the cutbacks.
“Typically, they would be people that have other jobs, and they may teach a course a semester. They may not even teach every semester. They might teach in the fall,” Wagner said. “We’re going to evaluate all of the workloads and try to understand if there’s any way to be more efficient.”
Efficiency is key for Temple during this budget crisis. The university is in the midst of streamlining its administrative systems.
Wagner said the technology will improve how Temple does administrative chores.
“All of those things go into how can we do the same amount of work with fewer people,” he said. “There’s really no way to take a cut at the university and not have personnel involved cuts because we’re so personnel intensive.”
Seventy percent of Temple’s budget goes toward personnel expenses like salaries and benefits, and with decreased appropriations, the university must be careful with its funds.
“We have to be very careful how we navigate Temple through these waters. We have to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and if things start turning around and we really see a positive impact, then certainly the president and Board of Trustees will take that into consideration,” he said.
Planning for the worst could mean state-related schools get less money from the commonwealth than they have been.
Temple’s budget has been cut five times in the last 10 years. In the governor’s most recent budget, Harrisburg proposed $178 million for Temple. In 2001, the university received $179 million.
“That’s treading water in absolute dollars, but if you do an inflation figure,” he said, “we’ve actually lost $40 million in buying power from our state appropriation over the last decade.”
Wagner expressed disappointment about Temple’s exclusion from the Pennsylvania Tuition Relief Act. The proposed act could deliver more than $9,000 in aid to students at community colleges and state-system schools. Temple, the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Lincoln University were not on the list of schools included.
“It’s always a good thing when the governor decides to invest in higher education. We want everyone to benefit from state investments if possible,” Wagner said. “But to have the community colleges and the state-system high education universities included in the program and to have Temple, Pitt, Penn State and Lincoln excluded and treated like private universities, is of very great concern to us.”
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.