CCU Singleton Building

Facing a budget shortfall of nearly $6.4 million, Coastal Carolina University officials have been searching for ways to save money.

No layoffs are planned, but Coastal leaders have kept some positions open and combined certain jobs, amid other belt-tightening strategies. 

“We have identified budget reductions … across all areas of campus,” Coastal's Chief Financial Officer David Frost said.

University leaders attribute the shortfall in Coastal's $240 million budget to declining enrollment. Coastal planned for a 2% increase in the number of students this year only to see that figure decline by 1.5 %. About 10,400 students are enrolled at Coastal.
 
“We have identified $5.6 million [in reductions], and we are well on our way to a balanced budget,” Frost said. “We’re in a cycle where enrollment is showing some weakening, and we’re going to have to go in and really sharpen our pencils. … We are being careful not to affect the student experience at all.”
 
Coastal has changed both its budgeting and hiring practices, Frost said. For about six months, a special panel of CCU officials has been tasked with approving any new positions.
 
“You have to justify it,” Frost said. “If I want to have a spot that’s never been on campus before, you better have a really good reason for that.”
 
On top of the declining enrollment, Coastal also provided a state-mandated 2 % raise to employees. The state covered just 13 % of the cost of that hike. State officials also required that Coastal pay a $600 bonus to employees making under
$70,000. That cost the university $600,000, and the state contributed $39,000.
 
Frost updated Coastal board members on the university’s financial state Tuesday.
 
Board member Natasha Hanna requested a detailed list of where the reductions will happen. 
 
Provost Daniel Ennis told the board that after looking at demographics across the country, CCU is not the only university in trouble in terms of enrollment numbers.
 
“It’s beginning to look like a challenge for all higher education," he said. "Small schools have been closing since 2015, and some public university systems are merging due to enrollment pressures. It’s the elephant in the room no one can miss now.”
 
Ennis said they hope to recruit 2,300 freshman, enroll a transfer class of 760, and also try to increase institutional needs-based aid.
 
“I’m not projecting growth," he said. "I won’t give a growth projection I can’t stand behind."
 
He also reiterated that their recent agreement with technical schools will help reach some students they might not have previously sought after as aggressively.
 
Enrollment of students from New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest is dropping, while population growth is coming from South Carolina, the Southeast, the West and Southwest, as well as Delaware and Pennsylvania.
 
Trustee Oran Smith suggested shifting recruitment focus strategies to those areas, and Ennis noted it was a risk they would have to calculate.
 
“It’s like turning a battleship though,” Ennis said, mentioning partnerships and working relationships built for two decades in the current recruitment areas. “Do I take someone out of a visit to Baltimore [with guaranteed student population] and send them to Dallas [an unknown number of possible recruits]?”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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