St. Mary's College Facing Declining Enrollment, Budget Constraints

St. Mary's College of Maryland

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (July 04, 2019)—A missive obtained by The County Times from St. Mary's College of Maryland to all staff employed there, states that the incoming class for this fall is smaller than first projected, which will necessitate even stricter budget constraints than the college leadership had initially planned.

The e-mail was sent in mid-June from Paul Pusecker, vice president of business operations at the college and its chief financial officer.

Pusecker's message states that the college's finance committee of the board of trustees had voted in April to recommend an operating budget based on 475 incoming students, both first-year and transfer students.

This number meant that the college would already have to trim its budget by $970,000 in "permanent budget reductions" to meet their budget, the message said.

Since then the number of incoming students has been reduced to just 410, according to the e-mail.

This means the college will have to manage perhaps more than $2 million in budget cuts.

"We will continue to attract student deposits over the summer, as we have for the past two years," Pusecker wrote in his missive. "Because there is still time, there is still hope but we must remain cautious."

He called budget reductions such as these "painful and heartbreaking." "The college simply cannot continue to rely each year on the chance availability of vacated positions, expiring contracts and possible year-end excess funds to support budget reduction actions," Pusecker continued.

An employee at the college, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there have been no lay offs or pay cuts due to the projected enrollment shortfall but that the college is seeking other ways to meet its obligations.

"It's not something unique to our institutions," said the employee, noting that many students were taking greater advantage of broader access to free community college for their first two years.

"It's never good, but you've got to make changes," they said of the budget cuts.

The employee said several departments who were looking to fill teaching vacancies had cancelled their searches and travel budgets for college employees would also likely be cut.

The recent decline in projected enrollment only put into sharper focus the need for a new strategic plan which administrators are now working for the college's future.

Among other issues this strategic plan would deal with the issue of competition with community colleges for student enrollment, the employee said.

David Hautanen, vice president for enrollment at the college, said they are still expecting 410 new arrivals this fall but believe the situation may improve by fall of 2020.

"We're confident with our [new curriculum] and our rebranding… we're seeing nothing but positive signs for next year," Hautanen said.

An increase in campus visits by prospective students was one indication of hope, Hautanen said.

"Students who visit the campus are more interested," Hautanen said. "They're more likely to follow up on applying and enrolling."

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