Northern State University is implementing changes to shift campus resources and devote more funds to its top priorities.
The changes – which affect academics, athletics and student affairs – involve discontinuing programs and re-evaluating hiring practices.
“As Northern State University continues to grow, we need to internally reallocate resources to accommodate our strategic priorities of recruitment, retention and academic quality,” said President Dr. Jim Smith. “We also realize that enhancements need to be made in our existing safety and security measures.”
The changes come after more than a decade of rising costs and no statewide base budget increases. Expanding operating expenses are being passed on to the universities and students. Recently, for example, universities had to pay for a 25 percent increase in health care costs. They were also required to pay for salary increases approved by the governor.
Now, changes at Northern include the practice of filling only critical positions. Other positions – such as the associate vice president of academic affairs – are not being filled at this time.
Also, the intercollegiate golf and tennis programs will be discontinued. The weather does not cooperate well with these sports, and Northern has struggled to consistently meet roster requirements – challenges that are not creating a good experience for these student-athletes.
“Every effort will be made to support the students impacted to ensure they can continue their academic pursuits at NSU, or wherever else they may choose,” said Athletic Director Josh Moon.
Students who choose to stay will receive their existing athletics aid in 2013-14 to help with the transition, Moon said. If students choose to transfer, he said, Northern will help with that process. Resources from that change will be reinvested in women’s athletic programs already in existence and maintaining strong roster sizes.
NSU will also discontinue its Discovery program, which offers a higher education opportunity to students involved in a substance abuse treatment recovery. Students currently in the Discovery program will continue to receive services from the NSU Counseling Center. Those funds will be reallocated to support the university’s outreach efforts to increase the American Indian student population at Northern, said Dr. Calvin Phillips, vice president of student affairs. This is the largest minority group in South Dakota, Phillips said, and research in the state has shown a projected growth in the population of students of color.
Any other funds from that change would be used to enhance safety and security on campus, he said. Included in these safety measures will be the examination of use of a sophisticated key card access for certain areas of campus.
The university also hopes to set aside funds from the changes to build up reserves for unexpected expenses, said Veronica Paulson, vice president for finance and administration.
Other financial issues to consider:
• The Board of Regents requires an annual 2 percent investment in maintenance of auxiliary facilities (residence halls, food service, bookstore and Student Center).
• Fees for online students differ from those of on-campus students, so online dollars are now being used to fund items that once were paid for directly with student fee dollars.
• NSU must keep its debt coverage ratio at or above 1.25. The debt coverage ratio is calculated based on an entity’s net revenue compared to its level of debt.
“Like most businesses of our size, we must examine how best to spend our dollars to maximize the returns that we receive,” added Smith. “We will continue to identify areas that can enhance our enrollment picture and, simultaneously, benefit the institution financially. These actions are difficult ones; all the programs and positions identified above are important. However, we must focus our attention on growing full-time enrollments and funding those internal actions that most effectively move us toward our desired state of excellence.”