Students who live on campus have higher grade point averages and are more likely to graduate, University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall told senators as he made the case for the university’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
Hall spoke at Wednesday’s Finance Committee budget hearing held at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas.
To provide more dormitory space for students on its St. Thomas campus, Hall said the university will cut the ribbon on a new $8 million residence hall on Sept. 6. It will house 100 students.
Hall said that while he understood the need to cut the budget 11 percent over last year’s $31.6 million allotment to $28.1 million, “This is not the time to handcuff the university but to invest in it.”
He said the mandated 8 percent salary cut for all government caused some faculty members to leave and reduced morale for many other UVI employees.
He asked the senators to restore at least $750,000 to the university’s budget.
To absorb the cuts, Hall said the university is freezing vacant positions, reducing the amount of travel by 50 percent and eliminating two cabinet level positions.
Important services like security and maintaining the physical plant are suffering from the budget cuts, Hall said.
He said that educating the territory’s residents is key to its economic growth.
Armed with a raft of statistics, Hall said that only 22.9 percent of the territory’s residents ages 25 to 64 hold associate’s degrees or higher. The number stands at 31.6 percent in Puerto Rico and 37.9 percent across the country.
According to Hall, 92 percent of the university’s 2,600 students hail from the territory, with the remained coming from other Caribbean islands and the mainland.
However, the number of males attending the university is up to 31 percent of the student population from 27 percent when Hall took over as president in 2009, he said.
In addition to its St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses, the university operates a distance learning center on St. John.
Hall said distance learning is the wave of the future and spoke about requests from police officers for distance learning courses. “They fit better with their schedule,” he said.
The senators also heard from David Zumwalt, who heads UVI’s Technology and Research Park. Zumwalt said that the park is able to fund its upcoming $1.9 million budget through revenues. Last year’s budget stood at $1.4 million.
Like Hall, Zumwalt had plenty of figures at his fingertips. He said the park has 15 tenants, with three approved but not yet “active,” and four pending.
He also said that since the Technology and Research Park is self-supporting, its employees are not subject to the 8 percent salary cut for government workers.
“I’m a little troubled by that,” Sen. Janette Millin-Young said. “Shared sacrifice means shared sacrifice.”
Zumwalt said that when the Research and Technology Park received government funding, the employees had salary cuts.
In addition to Millin-Young, Sens. Carlton Dowe, Celestino White and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly attended the UVI portion of the budget hearing. Sens. Louis P. Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone and Sammuel Sanes were absent. Noncommittee members Sens. Craig Barshinger and Patrick Simeon Sprauve stopped by to ask questions.