College of Charleston’s shortfall rises to $2.1 million

The College of Charleston’s total deficit is $2.1 million.

More spending cuts are on the horizon at the College of Charleston as declining out-of-state student enrollment brings the college’s total deficit to $2.1 million.

In an email to faculty and staff this week, C of C President Glenn McConnell announced that after calculating final fall enrollment numbers, the college’s income shortfall is about $632,000 greater than originally projected. McConnell blamed the deficit on dwindling out-of-state student enrollment — a trend, he noted, “experienced by us as well as many universities with selective undergraduate admissions.”

“This budget discussion will not be limited to only the current fiscal year,” McConnell said in Monday’s staff-wide email. “Over the course of the next few months, we must address this new enrollment landscape as it pertains to our enrollment and financial model and plan accordingly for next year. This will give the institution the opportunity to restructure where appropriate and to ensure that the quality of a College of Charleston education will not be compromised.”

In September, college leaders reported a budget shortfall of $1.5 million, equal to about half of 1 percent of the college’s $263.9 million budget. At their meeting in October, the C of C Board of Trustees approved a $1.25 million package of spending cuts to address the shortfall by the end of the academic year. Eighty-three percent of those cuts will come from eliminating three vacant faculty positions and 13 vacant staff positions. The rest will come from reductions in operating expenditures, including a $50,000 cut from the School of Business and a $62,500 cut from the Provost’s Office.

The board also approved an additional spending cut of $250,000 from Academic Affairs, which will be deferred until next year.

“I am concerned that the cuts may start to inhibit the college’s ability to fulfill its mission,” said economics professor Calvin Blackwell, a member of the Faculty Budget Committee. “The college provides a great service to the local community. We need resources to do it.”

College leaders plan to recommend an additional slate of cuts to cover the $632,000 deficit at the next Board of Trustees meeting in January. According to Provost Brian McGee, those cuts will be spread “across the College of Charleston.” McGee said he does not anticipate any layoffs will be used to address the shortfall.

“We’re going to look everywhere we can for ways to recover some of our budgeted funds to minimize the impact on our students and the faculty who teach them,” McGee said. “That means we will have to make some hard choices along the way.”

While total undergraduate enrollment has hovered around 10,500 students since 2012, the college’s population of nonresident students, who pay a yearly tuition rate of $28,444, has decreased by about 400 students in the past three years, creating a $7.4 million tuition revenue gap.

Out-of-state enrollment has dipped, McGee said, in part because nearby states like Georgia have created generous scholarship programs that entice students to attend college in their home state.

“It’s important to understand that we’re talking about a very small number of students,” McGee said. “Each one of our out-of-state students is paying a tuition rate of over $20,000 a year. It doesn’t take that many students paying that amount of money before you start seeing a financial impact.”

Reach Deanna Pan at 843-397-5764.