A one-year financial turnaround at California University of Pennsylvania is a credit to its new leadership at the same time that it's an indictment of past practices. The fact that an $11.8 million deficit was erased and replaced by a $5.8 million surplus also suggests there could be more room for improvement.
Cal U's interim president, Geraldine Jones, did what she promised early in her tenure and cut carefully and deeply into spending, making changes both large and small in the process. In doing so, she avoided laying off any professors and the controversy that step has triggered on other campuses in the State System of Higher Education.
Not everyone on the Washington County campus is happy that bus service is suspended after 11 p.m. nightly and trips run every 15 to 20 minutes rather than every 10 or 15, but the changes saved 450 hours of operation and allowed the fleet to drop from eight to five vehicles.
Students may miss watching its Division II Vulcans football team on television, attending Smithsonian Exhibitions that have been a fixture on campus or reading the campus magazine and newsletter more often, but those extras became unaffordable luxuries on a campus where cuts were being mandated in most departments. Undergraduates probably don't mind the elimination of a $74 fee they had been charged for an unpopular leadership training program that was scrapped.
The new attitude on campus is a far cry from the free-spending habits under former president Angelo Armenti Jr., who was fired last year amid escalating campus debt and questions about financial practices on the campus.
The fact that Cal U was able to find so much to scale back in such a short period affirms that change was overdue, and it suggests there may be more fat to cut. Campus officials have an obligation to keep looking.
It is encouraging that a campus that only recently stood as an example of excess now is setting standards that other universities may need to follow in order to minimize staff reductions and tuition increases.
First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM