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    Get Smart: Umass Boston budget trouble

    As they say, numbers don’t lie.

    UMass Boston Deputy Chancellor Barry Mills recently held a forum for faculty, staff, and students on campus to offer a look at the school’s financial situation and explain how it landed in a fiscal crisis this year.

    The reasons are many and complex, but some of it is simple math.


    Enrollment in fiscal year 2014 was 16,277. This fiscal year, it was 16,847 — below the school’s goal of 17,085. Couple that with the fact that over the same time period, the total number of employees at the university rose from 1,885 to 2,095.

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    What’s more, employee compensation grew from around $235 million to nearly $300 million this year, according to the presentation, which is posted online.

    Overall this year’s revenue will be $424 million. Expenses will be $431 million. You do the math. The fiscal year ends June 30.

    Those numbers include a host of budget-cutting measures the school is implementing. UMass officials expect to end the year with a $7 million deficit, down from an original projection of $30 million.

    As a result of the debt, the school has put some construction projects on hold to save money.


    You’ve heard about the nursing building that has stalled, but there are other projects now in construction purgatory: a $28 million energy plant, a $23 million campus police and athletic facility, a $4 million pedestrian bridge from the new parking garage (already under construction) and a $12 million project to install fire suppression systems in the library and Clark Athletic Center. The campus CFO acknowledged that last project would address a very serious safety concern.

    Despite the turmoil, administrators said in the meeting that they expect enrollment next year to rise.

    So far for first-years this fall, they said they have had a 5 percent increase in applications, a 19 percent increase in admitted students, and a 28 percent increase in deposits, including a big jump in international students, they said.

    Among many budget-cutting measures, the school is offering voluntary buy-outs for employees and plans to cut 86 course sections in the fall. That means some classes with a single section will be cut entirely, and other courses will have more students in each section.

    Mills took questions from the audience and said he plans to make the forum a regular event. How long he will remain at the helm of UMass Boston is anyone’s guess, although his contract is for five years, through March 2, 2022.


    Before he spoke, Mills donned one of the #SaveUMB stickers that a group of students and professors offered to audience members at the door.

    “I take my responsibility to ‘Save UMB’ very seriously,” he said.

    Laura Krantz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.