California University of Pennsylvania narrows $12 million deficit through spending cuts

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California University of Pennsylvania at one point expected to finish the upcoming school year with a nearly $12 million deficit but reduced that by two-thirds through spending cuts, the school's interim president revealed today.

Geraldine Jones also told a gathering of faculty and staff on campus that CalU faces the likely loss of about 9 percent of its students this fall but said efforts are underway to stabilize enrollment.

"We did not get here overnight, and we will not be able to remedy this financial situation overnight," Ms. Jones said in an address to the faculty and staff convocation, held in the school's new $59 million convocation center.

The projected deficit for the 2012-2013 school year is $4.2 million, she said. CalU's operating budget is about $120 million.

Her remarks to a crowd of several hundred on the second day of fall classes marked her first convocation address since assuming the presidency in May upon the firing of longtime CalU president Angelo Armenti Jr.

Previously the provost, Ms. Jones pledged in her address that CalU would focus on its core mission of educating students, an apparent nod to faculty complaints that spending under her predecessor escalated too much and that undue emphasis was given to non-academic pursuits.

She also said the university is instituting what she termed "financial solvency principles" and said efforts are continuing to find savings in current and future budgets.

And she pledged an era of open communication, saying CalU's ability to fully realize its potential as a great public university rests on the shoulders of every employee.

"I will work hard not to disappoint," Ms. Jones said, winning applause and a standing ovation during her speech.

Mr. Armenti oversaw a period of rapid enrollment growth and is credited with pursuing construction projects that transformed the campus.

But he sometimes sparred with faculty, some of whom accused the former president of retaliating against those who disagreed or spoke against him or his ideas and policies.

Michael Slavin, chair of CalU's theater department and head of the campus chapter of the faculty union, said in his speech that Ms. Jones "will not be given the traditional 100 day honeymoon" but also said employees stood ready to help.

He urged her, in considering employee input, to "honor what they say without any retaliation."

The school's enrollment figures will not be finalized until next month. But based on initial projections, the school anticipates to have the equivalent of 7,449 fulltime students, 749 less than last year's 8,198, Ms. Jones said.

Officials said the enrollment decline contributed to this year's projected deficit.

Officials said Ms. Jones opted in the face of a bad recruiting year to maintain admission standards, rather than accept less academically prepared students to drive up enrollment totals.

education - breaking - neigh_washington

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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