MISSOULA – The University of Montana needs to further reduce its faculty and staff to match its lower enrollment numbers or the state may have to make those decisions, officials said.
“UM currently has too many faculty and staff,” said Kevin McCrae, a deputy in the state office of the Commissioner of Higher Education. “Last year UM had more faculty and staff than they did at their peak enrollment.”
Enrollment on the main campus has fallen by 22 percent since 2010.
Commissioner Clayton Christian told the Missoulian (bit.ly/2g3F0pj) that while the university budget as a whole is sound, the student-to-faculty and student-to-staff ratios don’t leave much room for spending on other needs. The university has a 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, with a goal of 18-to-1.
The commissioner’s office says UM is spending more than 80 percent of its budget on personnel, compared to a university system average of 68 percent.
Recent budget cuts mean some faculty members are going without phones, and travel budgets have been cut or are non-existent. UM faculty have said they fear continued decreases will leave professors overworked and hamper the quality of academic offerings, but McRae said some programs that have lost students haven’t seen a corresponding reduction in faculty.
If UM administrators don’t evaluate priorities and shift spending, the commissioner’s office will have to take action, McRae said.
“If you can’t tell us how to do it, the day will come where you’re going to have to be told,” he told the newspaper.
McRae acknowledged it’s difficult to make cuts at UM. President Royce Engstrom’s efforts have been hampered by faculty and news coverage, McRae said.
Christian said he hopes UM administrators can find a proper spending balance because some of the money comes from taxpayers.
Engstrom told Board of Regents last week that UM is still in the process of identifying places where it will take resources and shift them to growing programs. The school’s vice president of finance, Mike Reid, also told regents that the university needs to reduce its personnel numbers.
UM also is working on increasing its enrollment.
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