PROVO -- Decreasing enrollments in the last four semesters, changes in federal school loan programs and the lowering of LDS missionary ages could translate into a $7 to $10 million revenue shortfall to Utah Valley University coffers, according to President Matthew S. Holland.
Holland's annual State of the University address Wednesday took the president out of his comfort zone as he acknowledged the tough road ahead and the hopes he has for the long term of the university.
"From virtually the very moment the missionary age change was announced, we and most other institutions in the system have been furiously trying to project enrollment impact," Holland said. He noted that best estimates indicated there will be between a 4 to 7 percent decrease in enrollment in the fall.
Holland said enrollment is predicted to smooth out in 2015-16, with the wave completed by 2016-17.
But that's not all the bad news. The university is instigating a hiring chill -- not a complete freeze, but hiring will be much more difficult. All of this is happening at the same time that the university is trying to keep tuition low and completing much-needed capital projects.
"We are staring down a barrel of a $7 to $10 million shortfall because of enrollments. Yet, we stand hopeful that recruiting efforts, the legislative progress, and likely tuition hikes will at some level reduce those numbers," Holland said.
National issues are hitting home. Pell grants are protected from sequester cuts through October, but other federal student aid programs likely will be cut.
"Cuts to hundreds of federally funded programs, putting pressure on the state to plug the gaps, would further erode the state's limited capacity to fund education," Holland said. "The problem goes even deeper than that. Since one third of the state budget is supported by federal funding, sequestration would create a massive shortfall for many existing state programs."
And that's still not all.
"Is it just me, or does it seem that all forces in and around the world are out to get UVU?" Holland joked. "You're going to think I am making this up, but I am not. Just this very week, federal wildlife officials recommended that wolverines be officially designated an endangered species. Are you kidding me? It's enough to drive a man -- at least this man -- to start asking for the diet Mountain Dew that has caffeine."
The levity helped. Holland pointed out that the school's long- and medium-term prospects remained promising.
He asked those in attendance to focus on the constructive outlook while mitigating its negatives. At a school level, they planned to increase its marketing and student recruiting efforts, including students from outside Utah and outside the United States, and beef up efforts to find non-traditional students to come back and finish a degree. They also plan to reach out to students who want to leave on missions right out of high school and encourage them to apply, as the school can hold their places and scholarships.
From an academic perspective, university officials want to increase the number of courses offered on the block schedule. Holland is asking faculty and department leaders to work with the central administration on providing additional block classes this semester.
"One of the things I love about these particular initiatives is that they are things we probably should have been doing anyway," Holland noted.
Looking out eight years, Holland concluded that demographics and economic cycles bode well for the school. The need is still there for facilities and space.
"The regents have ranked our legislative request for a classroom building first in need, along with Weber State's science building. The governor also has our classroom building designated as a priority in his budget," Holland said. He noted that he would be at the Legislature every week promoting the university's cause.
"If approved, we could break ground on this new facility as early as mid-April," Holland said. "Even though we are currently experiencing an enrollment pause, we needed this building yesterday."
Holland hopes fundraising will include the monies needed to build a new arts facility and expand the business building, which would include a new front to the university.
"Do I think we will get all of these projects done in the next eight years? Probably not. But do I think we will get most of them? Absolutely," Holland said.
He suggested the audience remember what it was like eight years ago on campus. The were only 35 bachelor's degree programs, no master's degrees, 350 faculty, no outside restaurants in the food court, they weren't in an athletic conference, and the school had a $90 million budget compared to the $160 million today.
"And our academic dialogue featured the likes that year of Michael Moore and Sean Hannity," he added.
School officials remain optimistic.
Ian Wilson, vice president of academic affairs said, "There is no one I'd rather have at the head of this university through these rough seas than Matthew Holland. Every university should have a Matt."