Ashland University instituted a hiring and non-essential spending freeze, effective November 26, according to a memorandum that was emailed to the campus community on December 5. The freeze will be in effect until the end of the university’s fiscal year, May 31, 2020.
The freeze is necessary because of a projected $1.6 million budget shortfall, according to the memo. That shortfall was caused by lower enrollment than the university planned for in its budgeting process.
“We recognize the difficult situation this creates and that some important initiatives and activities may be delayed or possibly canceled,” Ashland University President Carlos Campo wrote in the memo. “These actions are necessary to ensure the University’s financial stability.”
According to the memo, current hiring searches that are in process and new positions and replacement positions are subject to the freeze. Considerations of exemptions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
A non-essential spending freeze also goes into effect. That means that all costs related to travel, professional development and training, and conferences are being suspended, with the exception of travel for student recruitment, athletic teams, and fundraising.
Additionally, equipment that doesn’t meet the definition of a capital outlay, supplies, office supplies, athletic equipment and supplies, and hospitality expenses will be held to essential needs. All other miscellaneous expenses have been immediately frozen.
According to the AU’s Official Fall Census Enrollment report, which can be found on the university’s web site, there were 534 freshman enrolled in Fall 2019. That was down from 602 in 2018, an 11.3 percent drop.
This year’s freshman class is the smallest at AU since at least 2008, when there were 581 freshmen. This is according to a retention and graduation rate document that is on the university’s website. The document only goes back to 2008, so it’s possible the freshman class has not been this small for a longer period of time.
According to the Fall Census Enrollment report, traditional undergraduate enrollment is down at the university. In the Fall 2016 semester, when Campo took over as president, there were 2,426 traditional undergraduate students enrolled. That number is down to 2,259, a 6.9 percent drop.
Graduate enrollment is also down at AU since 2016, when there were 2,043 students enrolled in all graduate programs, including licensures and endorsements (for teachers) and the seminary. This year, that number has dropped to 1,810, an 11.4 percent decrease. Excluding the seminary and licensures and endorsements, the number of graduate students dropped by 109 from 2018 to this year, an 8.6 percent drop. The number of full-time graduate students dropped by 13 percent in the same timeframe (786 in 2018 to 683 in 2019).
Since 2016, the only growth in student enrollment has come in College Credit Plus students and the university’s prison outreach program. College Credit Plus students has grown from 133 in 2016 to 288 in 2019. The number of prison students has increased by 83 percent, jumping from 1,351 to 2,470.
In September, The Collegian reported that various departments and programs had their budgets cut because of the decreased enrollment. At the time, some of those cuts came in athletics, the prison outreach program, online studies, and the Master of Business Administration.