Original article appeared in The Beacon student newspaper on March 3, 2009. Please visit the PBA website for supporting press release on this issue here.
By Kristina Webb
Facing a deficit of over $3 million, Palm Beach Atlantic University has laid off seven employees and scheduled a tuition increase for the fall.
Tuition for full-time undergraduate day students will increase by $1,150, about 5 percent, to total $22,400 annually. Tuition will remain at current levels for evening undergraduate students, graduate students and students in the Orlando campus. Housing costs and meal plan prices will stay the same.
As colleges across the nation wrestle with economic shortfalls, PBA officials have managed to make budget cuts and still fill faculty openings.
“We are continuing to hire outstanding faculty to fill positions,” said Dr. David W. Clark, PBA president. “Three new faculty joined us in January and several more will be hired for next fall. We will continue to add talented faculty to strengthen our academic programs.”
The current school year’s budget was $71,603,608, but as revenues fell short of projections, budget officials made cuts totaling $3,453, 937.
“This year we did not make our enrollment numbers, so we had to adjust the budget downward to show that we had a lot less revenue,” said Renae Murray, acting chief financial officer for PBA.
“We asked the provost to talk to his deans, and volunteer areas where they could cut,” said Murray. “They went through and they took their travel budgets in half, and their faculty development.”
Seven people were laid off at the end of the fall semester, including employees from the library, Technology Services and Student Services. Nonetheless, officials remained optimistic that they can avoid severe financial cuts.
“You may have seen in the [Palm Beach] Post that the University of Miami has frozen all positions, all salaries and are not contributing in the coming year to their faculty and staff retirement,” Clark said. “I trust we will not face such actions in the coming year.”
At PBA, institutional scholarships will be scaled back by $519,841. This should not affect current students, said Kimberly Vanderlaan, assistant director of the Financial Aid Office. Vanderlaan said that the policy in her office is to not change funding to any student who is currently receiving aid, unless there is a drop in grades or a change in the student’s FAFSA.
“We’re not changing anything,” Vanderlaan said.
To combat the tuition increase, financial aid staffers will be instituting a new way to calculate student aid and all students should benefit from the adjustment, said Vanderlaan. Pending fines and tuition from current and former students also contribute to the deficit.
“Right now, we have $5,392,470 owed to us by students,” Murray said.
An additional $3,279,259 is owed to the school but counted separately because those debts have been sent to collection agencies. Of the bills that are sent for collection, 25 to 50 percent of the money collected will go to pay the agencies, so the school will not able to recoup all of its losses.
Employee benefits are also being affected by the reduction in budget, with plans to reallocate $652,436 of the money originally intended to support employee health care.
Though overall enrollment did not reach projections, the current semester saw record numbers of new students. The previous record for undergraduate full-time enrollment of new students for the spring semester was at 108. This spring, 114 of such students arrived on campus, according to Dr. Mary Ann Searle, vice president for Student Development.
“God is blessing us with great students here at PBA in record numbers,” Searle said. She added that PBA also saw the departure of 107 students at the end of the fall semester.
Searle said the university is working hard to recruit new students for the fall semester, hiring a new employee to work in Broward and Dade counties, participating in almost 200 college and job fairs and visiting Christian high schools and churches.
“We are thankful and grateful, especially during these tough economic times, that students and their families are choosing Palm Beach Atlantic,” Searle said.