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MSUM leaders optimistic about budget situation

MOORHEAD -- Minnesota State University Moorhead officials were positive about the university's economic situation during a town hall meeting on campus Wednesday.

While other universities struggle with possible lay-offs, MSUM President Edna Szymanski said she doesn't foresee that happening, although spending will still be tight for a while.

"We've been through the hard part but we're emerging," Szymanski told an audience of about 75 university faculty, staff and students. "It's still going to be tight for the next two years."

Previous planning last year saved the university from having to face tough budget decisions now - and officials have since developed plans that they hope will ensure financial growth and stability, despite declining state funding.

Because of state budget issues, MSUM officials expect a $1 million decrease in state funding next year - which they project could mean a $4 million budget deficit by 2012-13, said Jean Hollaar, MSUM's planning and budget officer.

"We've already planned for that, so we're not expecting that we'll have to go out and decrease the budgets that have already been loaded," Hollaar said.

Officials hope to balance the lack of state funding with revenue generated from an aggressive approach to increase enrollment and reduce costs across the university, Hollaar said.

An optional retirement incentive to qualifying employees was one cost-saving measure pursued by the university this year. As of Wednesday, 22 of about 95 qualifying employees took the incentive package, Hollaar said.

Also, Szymanski and other university officials said they want to raise enrollment to 8,000 by 2012, expand residence options on campus and pursue marketing research on a possible name-change for the university.