By Eli Hughes–

Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Owen announced to A&S faculty on March 9 that a temporary spending freeze would take effect from now until June 30. This decision comes after A&S reported a budget shortfall of more than $1.6 million for the current fiscal year due to low enrollment this year.

“Enrollments in A&S fell below budgeted targets in the fall and spring semesters, and we are now projecting a revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year of $1,684,991, while expenditures are trending as budgeted,” Owen said in the email announcement. “I ask for your help to close this gap between revenues and expenditures.”

He went on to say that this shortfall can be addressed by increasing revenues through higher enrollment in late-start spring semester classes and summer classes, as well as by reducing expenditures through general funds spending freeze.

When The Cardinal reached out to Owen for comment he said this spending freeze will only affect non-essential expenditures.

“The spending freeze will not affect students or impact our academic mission. Its purpose is to reduce spending on expenses that are not immediately essential to our academic and research missions and that can be held off until next year,” Owen said.

Owen also said that the spending freeze was only one piece of the plan to address the budget shortfall, “We are striving to increase enrollments by offering more late-start spring courses than in the past and offering a wide-range of summer courses. We had previously set aside a portion of the budget for possible revenue shortfalls, and those funds will be used. Lastly, we will apply some of the funds carried over from last year to close this budget deficit.”

The underlying cause of this decrease in enrollment that led to the shortfall is not certain at this time but Owen attributes many of the problems to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The budget shortfall is due to lower than expected enrollments in A&S, which I expect has multiple causes. Part of this is due to some students choosing to step away from their studies because of the many additional financial, personal, and emotional stresses created by the pandemic, and some may be because some students prefer in-person learning,” Owen said.

In the email, Owen laid out specific guidelines for what expenses the spending freeze would affect:

  • This applies only to general fund accounts.
  • Recurring expenses, expenses already incurred and all invoices received will need to be paid.
  • Does not impact current faculty tenure-line or term searches. Requests for staff hires will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • This will not affect any spending from research grants, RIF accounts and start-up funds.
  • This will not affect spending from endowments and current use gift accounts.
  • For all other general fund expenses, you should work with your UBM-I to request pre-approval.

Owen believes that this spending freeze can help the department address the financial problems it’s facing while still maintaining its academic mission.

“A&S faculty have worked tirelessly to provide the best possible online learning experiences possible during this past year,” Owen said. “Arts & Sciences degrees provide an exceptional value in the 21st century. By learning how to learn, A&S graduates are well-prepared for highly dynamic and unpredictable career paths, and A&S graduates have the knowledge and skills to tackle many of the challenges our communities face.”

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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