Image credit Southern Oregon University
An interview with Greg Perkinson gives insight into the inner workings of SOU’s budgeting process.
Without a budget, most schools, businesses, and/or organizations would crumble, and college budgets are essentially the backbone of every university. University budgets put together a sheet of revenues and expenditures to see where a university might fall short and need extra assistance from state or private funding. In a budget, there are several different moving parts that might seem too complex for a student to grasp, but the Siskiyou recently had a great opportunity to sit down with SOU’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, Greg Perkinson.
Perkinson has been the VP of Finance and Administration since 2017, and he is a part of the SOUs executive leadership team. Perkinson helps manage a few different departments, such as Business Services, Budget Office, Human Resources, Facilities Management and Planning, Campus Public Safety, Information Technology, Service Center, and University Housing. Perkinson received a degree in architecture from Kent State University. He also received a master’s degree in architectural engineering from Penn State University.
Perkinson explained the budget process and how the finance operations work here at SOU. The budget is broken into two categories: revenues and expenses. The revenues and expenses try to balance each other out in order to create a stable financial institution, though there is always a goal to have revenue leftover because it will help aid the costs of the next fiscal year. The revenues include tuition revenue, state allocations, and mandatory fees. The expenses are personnel, OPE (retirement and core benefits), and supplies and services.
From the Tuition Advisory Council (TAC) meeting materials, they quote, “budgets are a continuum, not a single snapshot.” SOUs budgets revolve around fluctuating numbers each year because of market inflation/deflation. These budget numbers are primarily based on student enrollment numbers because of the tuition and fees each student pays. Tuition ranks first in SOU revenue, and as Perkinson said, “enrollment drives revenue.”
The TAC is composed of staff, faculty, and students. The goal of the TAC is to look at tuition and mandatory fee rates and make a recommendation to the President. The TAC is a great way for student and faculty voices to have weight in the cost of attendance discussions. The council is also related to the newly imposed House Bill 4141.
A budget is put together with the help of a few different departments before it is given approval. It is shared with the president of the university who then presents it to the Oregon governor-appointed board of trustees. SOU has 14 trustees. The board chair of the trustees is Daniel P. Santos and the vice-chair is Dr. Jonathon Bullock.
However, COVID-19 has taken a toll on all universities. During the interview with Perkinson, he highlighted a few charts and graphs related to student enrollment numbers. “When COVID hit, we had already initiated some cost savings measures. What we saw was a significant decrease in enrollment, which drove a significant decrease in revenue. We worked aggressively to offset those revenue losses to keep our financial health as good as it could be…one thing that was asked was for the faculty to take some furloughs…and we probably saved about $7 million. Now, that was key because we were offset about $11 million in lost revenue…it was hard on students. It was hard on faculty. It was hard on staff as a lot of people worked remotely,” Perkinson said.
According to the board of trustees’ last (January) meeting materials, SOU in the 2020-21 school year saw a 12.4% decrease in student credit hours from the previous year. The number went from 161,611 to 143,764 credit hours.
Currently, SOU ranks as the third most affordable school in Oregon according to Academic Influence. However, indicated from SOUs own comparators update of 2020-21, SOU is ranked fourth with tuition and mandatory fees averaging at $11,166 for full-time undergraduate students. On this list, Eastern Oregon University is ranked first at a cost of $9,696.
In a snapshot view, Perkinson has high hopes for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Looking forward into revenues, “we’re getting roughly $26 million from the state. That’s great. We appreciate every bit of it,” Perkinson said. Regarding the enrollment numbers, Perkinson said, “it’s early in the database, but the trajectory is very positive…we’re working to do our best with retention.”
In addressing the SOU students, Perkinson said, “thank you. The pandemic has been really hard on everybody. We’ve really done our best to keep people safe to weather the storm. We have a fantastic board of trustees. We have a fantastic new president. So keep doing your best to learn, thrive, keep yourself safe, and do what you need to do to be successful. We’ve got your back. We’re going to do our best to find a source of revenue. We are going to do our best to manage expenses. So we appreciate your grace and your trust…and we’ll see you on the other side.”
The next meeting for the Finance and Administration Committee is March 17th, and the next Board of Trustees meeting will be on April 22nd.