The University of Akron won't have to dig as deep as expected into its financial reserves to balance its general fund budget this year.

UA Interim President John Green said Wednesday that the school has been "spending wisely" and will have to pull only $4 million from reserves, as opposed to the $16 million that had been projected at the beginning of the fiscal year.

He made the announcement Wednesday during a board of trustees meeting. The board approved a revised general fund budget that shows expenses are down $13.7 million to $295 million.

Meanwhile, revenue, now at a projected $319 million, will be $3.9 million below the original budget. Some general fund revenue is transferred to support other funds in the university, helping to create the projected general fund deficit.

UA Chief Financial Officer Nathan Mortimer said school leaders are managing and controlling costs, especially when it comes to filling and replacing vacant positions. He said that reflects a cultural change for the university.

UA has struggled with enrollment declines and projected deficits for the past few years, cutting positions and reducing costs in a variety of other ways. Last month, UA offered voluntary buyouts to some of its 720 full-time faculty members as a cost-cutting tool. Employees must make a decision by May 31.

In other action, the board agreed to increase tuition, room and dining costs in the next school year.

Tuition will go up 1.5 percent for incoming freshmen. The increase amounts to about $175 per student, officials said.

UA is participating in a "tuition guarantee program" for in-state, undergraduate students and officials said the increase reflects an inflation/cost-of-living adjustment permitted under the program.

The program locks in tuition for freshmen for their college careers. Current tuition for Ohio residents is $11,846 a year.

Room and dining costs are increasing by about 3 percent in the fall. The exact financial increase depends on the residence hall and meal plan selected. The current room and board costs are about $11,220.

The university estimated that the tuition, room and dining increases would raise an additional $794,000 a year in revenue. The actual figure will depend on enrollment.

In other business:

• Green announced that the nonprofit, Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, which examines and accredits universities and colleges, recently completed an interim look at the issues of academic program review, shared governance and finances at UA and found no problems.

"The HLC reports are very good news for everyone, and the community, students, faculty and staff can have renewed confidence in the future of our university," he said.

• The university announced it received $28 million in donations between July 1, 2018, and Feb. 28 — a 63 percent increase over the same time period the previous year.

The school noted that it received four gifts of $1 million or more each.

UA had received $17.2 million and $11.9 million in comparable eight-month time periods the previous two years.

Kim Cole, UA vice president of advancement, attributed the increase to the school focusing on requests for money for scholarships and more compelling storytelling.

• Green reported that the university is launching a search for deans of the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education, College of Business Administration and College of Health Professions. The school also is looking for a director for the School of Nursing.

• The board agreed to create the Department of Criminal Justice Studies.

• The board awarded a $1,533,900 design contract to Bialosky Cleveland of Cleveland for the overall $23 million project to renovate and expand Crouse Hall and demolish Ayer Hall; and awarded an $810,600 contract to Complete Demolition Services of Louisville, Kentucky, to raze Gallucci Residence Hall.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.