President Gibralter Discusses Budget Cuts with Students at Open Forum, Expects Tuition to Increase Again in Fall 2015

On Jan. 28, 2015, Frostburg State University President Jonathan Gibralter held an open forum to discuss the midyear tuition increase and university budget cuts with students. At the forum, Gibralter apologized to students, explained the situation, and also said he expects tuition to increase again in Fall 2015.

“Let me start by offering an apology,” said Gibralter, explaining that the university’s budget cuts were unexpected.

Gibralter said that the University System of Maryland was told to expect $8 million in cuts, across the system, but these cuts were increased after deeper cuts were made to the state budget. These cuts were made due to a lack of tax revenue.

“As a goodbye present, our parting governor tried to balance a budget that was seriously unbalanced,” Gibralter explained, noting that the announced cuts were five times greater than expected.” The entire University System of Maryland faced $40 million in budget cuts. FSU’s budget was cut $1.25 million.

In order to meet these new budget constraints, FSU increased tuition by two percent and enacted several other cost reducing measures, including a hiring freeze and a travel ban. However, there are expenditures that must be paid, especially contracted projects: a new roof and windows in Dunkle Hall, along with a new University Police headquarters, have already been approved.

Gibralter explained how certain projects get paid for while others are halted: “There are many pots of money, and we can’t take from one to balance another.” Building projects are usually funded through the capital budget, not the operational budget.

One student asked whether tuition would be increased again in the Fall 2015 semester.

“I would expect that you would have anywhere from a three to five percent increase when you come back in the fall,” said Gibralter. A five percent increase would amount to a roughly $150 increase in tuition for a full time, in-state student.

University of Maryland College Park, Towson University, and Salisbury University also increased tuition by two percent. In addition, Gibralter noted, College Park charged its students a nearly $800 tuition surcharge. “All the [university] presidents want to keep tuition low,” he commented.

The end of the hiring freeze is unknown. “One thing I’m committed to is not having to lay people off; they love their jobs, and they love their students,” emphasized Gibralter. He explained that only essential personnel would be hired when necessary for the health and safety of the students, such as police officers.

Another student asked how the budget is prioritized. “The main priority is not cutting services to students, and not affecting the livelihoods of staff and students,” Gibralter commented. The staff alone can account for nearly 65-70% of the budget at times. “They have felt the pain, but we’ve always kept this away from students,” he said. Academic scholarships will continue to be unaffected.

Gibralter said that the budget cuts would put the FSU through a “12-18 month rough patch.”

Brad Kroner contributed to this article.

Pictured: Jonathan Gibralter, President; William Childs, Provost; Steven Spahr, Chief of Staff and VP for Economic Development and Government Relations; and David Rose,VP of Administration and Finance.

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