Academic departments face budget cuts

Martin Donovan, Staff Writer

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Academic departments were asked during the summer to create budget reduction plans of five and 10 percent respectively for this academic year. Luther’s administrative cabinet is currently reviewing the proposed budget cuts, and the plans will be introduced to the Board of Regents in October for a vote to reduce the budget.

According to Vice President of Finance and Administration Eric Runestad, the budget cuts are a result of Luther’s continued decline in enrollment.

“Since students account for almost all of the college’s revenue, and since we have fewer students than we had several years ago, we are working to balance the budget by decreasing operational expenses and increasing revenues wherever possible,” Runestad said.

Luther’s total enrollment has decreased by over 450 students since the fall of 2013, according to Luther’s Assessment and Institutional Research.

Luther is focused on increasing enrollment, as well as student retention.

“Persistence is really important to faculty because we don’t want students to leave once we have them here,” Professor of English Lise Kildegaard said. “Student success is really important to all of us.”

The English department will cut funds in areas that will not negatively affect students’ experiences.

“We also are trying very hard to not affect student experience in any way,” Kildegaard said. “We’re not decreasing work hours — that would be a way to save money; we’re trying very hard not to decrease student trips. Investment in student experiences is really important so we’re trying to keep that safe.”

Student organizations that receive funding through departments may receive budget cuts, though.

Claire Eichhorn (‘19) noted that the proposed budget cuts have provided additional challenges for Mock Trial — which is funded through the political science department — since student participation is increasing in the organization but their funds are declining.

“[This is] going to be really hard for us because our organization continues to grow,” Eichhorn said. “With budget cuts we aren’t able to go to as many tournaments, and we aren’t able to take as many students with us when we go to tournaments. We’re going to have to focus a lot of our energies on fundraising, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take away from a lot of the things that we would normally be able to do.”

Eichhorn also indicated that Mock Trial’s inability to attend tournaments inhibits the group from staying competitive.

“Every year we’ve noticed that more and more teams are going to more and more tournaments every year, and tournaments [are] where we improve,” Eichhorn said. “We haven’t been able to increase the number of tournaments we go to … so it’s difficult to keep up with other schools.”

However, student organizations who are allocated funds by Student Senate will not be impacted since those funds come from the campus activity fee.

“Student Senate is still allotting the same amount of funds to student organizations as they did last year, and at least all the other years that I’ve known, so $20,000 each year,” Vice President of Student Senate Wyatt Anians (‘19) said.

When talking about Luther overall budget, Kildegaard expressed her belief that Luther’s financial health will allow it to handle budget strains.

“In my experience, [Luther] is a pretty thrifty institution that knows how to get a lot of value out of a few dollars, and that’s helped us a lot,” Kildegaard said. “There’s a limit to how far you can go on thriftiness, but it has helped us a lot and I think we are decently well-situated to weather this particular budget crunch.”

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