Provost Michael Bernstein announced Stony Brook University will achieve a balanced budget within the next three years at a University Senate meeting on Monday, Nov. 5.
“We are, we meaning the provost’s office, on track to resolve the operating deficit of the West Campus area by the end of the next academic year, the 2019-2020 academic year,” Bernstein said. “We are also on track to resolve our accumulated deficit, commonly called debt, by the end of the following academic year.”
In March, the existing deficit was estimated at around $18 million. At a press conference with student media in October, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said he could not give a more up-to-date estimate of the current deficit.
The Office of the Provost has created a multi-year stabilization plan to try and combat rising debt and prevent another deficit. “It’s a model, a living model that we work with every day in the Provost’s Office,” he added. “We’re able to put in the anticipated revenues and anticipated expenses over the next several years.”
The provost said projections about increasing enrollment played a key role in developing the plan. “We have plugged in a growth undergrad enrollment of approximately 1,500 students over the next four years,” he said. Bernstein emphasized that these numbers, are “not engraved in stone” and that the plan is subject to change overtime.
Although a higher enrollment could lead to increased costs, Bernstein noted it could increase revenues as well. “As we admit more students, and more cash is running through our arteries, this is good for us, good for our institution,” he said. “We do not, and we would not, project enrollment growth plans that would somehow jeopardize admission of the university [or] undercut quality of what we do, both on the research side or the education side.”
Despite Bernstein’s claims, some, including Sarah Battaglia, assistant to the chair and graduate program coordinator in the occupational therapy department, expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of increasing enrollment.
“I’m friends with a lot of administrators here, and everyone has the stress where administrators have a workload that double and triples, but the staff stays the same,” she said. “With increased enrollment, I just ask that we increase staff too.”
Eli Avila II, a sophomore history major, said Stony Brook should prioritize current students’ problems.
“The increased enrollment of students to get money is a good cause, but they should focus their money on students who are already here and have issues,” Avila said. “Focus on the main student body now, rather than spreading out your territory more than what you can already handle.”
Bernstein acknowledged that the university still has several hurdles to overcome as it works to eliminate what was once a $35 million deficit. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train.”