The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees reluctantly agreed Saturday to submit a 2013-14 budget request that is $1.4 million less than its current budget.
The action took place during the regular quarterly meeting of the UVI board on the school’s St. Croix campus.
In his presentation, Finance and Budget Committee Chairman Edward E. Thomas said his committee was proposing the request for $27.4 million from the government of the Virgin Islands request “reluctantly,” but it meets the expenditure ceiling set by the V.I. Government’s Office of Management and Budget.
“This, from my vantage point, is really a severe reduction for the university on the heels of a $3.5 million reduction last year and other reductions the year before,” UVI President Dr. David Hall said. “This really will have a tremendous impact on us. The thing that makes this one more severe than any of the others is that we have been able to keep our classes on a regular schedule. We have not affected the teaching resources up until this time. There is no way, and I underscore no way, that we can address the $1.4 million (reduction) without affecting our instructional resources, and I think that puts our students at jeopardy, that puts some of our academic programs at jeopardy and I just don’t think it’s in our best interest.”
Hall said the reduction doesn’t just affect the university.
"It is about the quality of the territory,” he said, noting ripple economic and quality-of-life effects.
In his president’s report, Hall called for new initiatives to increase enrollment, including increased outreach to high school juniors and seniors both in the territory and abroad through mailing and calling programs, increased memorandums of understanding with eastern Caribbean countries, and open houses on both campuses.
UVI will also begin administering an admitted student survey to gather data on why students choose to attend UVI or another institution.
Hall said the recently launched Center for Student Success is UVI’s main answer to student retention. The center is the umbrella body for a variety of programs, including UVI’s Freshman Development Seminar; Advisement, Registration and Rehabilitation; Learning Assistance; Summer Bridge; and University Bound, formerly known as Upward Bound.
Trustee Jennifer Nugent-Hill said that UVI’s enrollment and recruitment challenges are directly linked to the territory’s socio/economic issues. Nugent-Hill said she often hears parents say, "I am sending my children off-island to save them." The community can no longer deny the effects that crime is having, she said.
"All of us are now being affected directly," she said.
The board also ratified several actions taken by the executive committee, including a resolution authorizing a loan to the Research and Tech Park Corporation, the updated Human Resources Policy Manual and a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement for the Solar Energy Project.