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Budget cuts planned at UW-Oshkosh to deal with declining enrollment

Students walk to class on the UW-Oshkosh campus on January 29, 2018. (Photo credit: WLUK)
Students walk to class on the UW-Oshkosh campus on January 29, 2018. (Photo credit: WLUK)
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OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- Trying to reverse a four-year trend, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is planning to make budget cuts to have its expenses more in line with its revenue.

In a self-imposed move, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt wants to cut spending by $9.5 million over the next two years. Leavitt wants $2.5 million-$5.4 million of that to take effect this July.

Leavitt outlined the steps he plans to take in a letter to campus, as well as in a blog post on Monday.

“What we really believe is that we have a revenue issue,” said Leavitt. “With declining enrollments due to the state's changing demographics, it's more difficult to raise the kind of revenue we need to cover our current expenditures.”

No decisions have been made on what could be part of the budget cuts. However, layoffs are an option. The school has already reduced its staff by about 100 positions in the last few years, mostly through resignations and retirements.

“Layoffs are tough and this is something we want to try to avoid, but at the end we need to make sure our expenditures are meeting our revenue,” said Leavitt.

For the 2017 fiscal year, UW-Oshkosh’s total operating expenses were $149.4 million. The school’s total operating revenue was $135.9 million.

Leavitt says it doesn't help that UWO hasn't been able to raise tuition in five years.

“I don't really want to pay more student loans than I have to, but also if it would give more supplies to other departments, then it's good,” said Seneca Freckmann, a UW-Oshkosh freshman.

To students at UW-Oshkosh, money already seems tight on campus. They say talk of budget cuts isn't what they'd like to hear.

“I think that's kind of scary because in a lot of departments, especially the science department, we're already experiencing low budgets for a lot of our supplies that we have,” said Freckmann.

“It could be a concern because I'm a cadet here at UW-Oshkosh ROTC,” said Harrison Collar, a UW-Oshkosh sophomore. “We're already tight on money from the school, so it could be a big concern for that.”

Leavitt says he plans to continue to provide updates on the school's finances. He hopes giving warning now will encourage others to help him through the process.

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FOX 11 reached out to UW-Green Bay to see if it’s dealing with similar financial issues as Oshkosh. Sue Bodily, Director of Content and Media Relations for UWGB, pointed out that unlike UWO, UWGB has experienced increased enrollment the last few years.

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