The Board of Regents sets operating budget for 2017 at $17.9 billion

Van Nguyen

The Board of Regents met last week to approve a $17.9 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year, a 5.4 percent increase from the previous fiscal year.

According to UT System Chancellor William McRaven, the budget increase will help pay for increases in enrollment, clinical care and research. There is a $280 million increase for academics and $381 million increase for clinical support. UT is one of the largest public university systems in the country.

“Our enrollments continue to grow,” McRaven said. “We expect to be at 225,000 students on campus and online [by the end of 2016]. Total degrees awarded continue [to] go up. There’s a 36 percent increase from 2005 to 2016.”

The System is responsible for $3 billion in research annually. Research expenditures at the universities have gone up, but federal funding for research has gone down, which is a concern for all the UT institutions, according to McRaven.

The budget increase will help the University retain faculty, as well as allow the University to bring in more esteemed faculty to lead new research projects and teach students.

Tuition currently makes up only 9.3 percent of UT System revenue. Most of the revenue comes from the System’s hospitals, clinics and professional fees, which together account for 42 percent of the budget. UT System hospitals and clinics have around 7 million outpatient visits and around 1.4 million in-patient hospital stays annually.

The Dell Medical School welcomed its first class this summer and is in the process of adding three new buildings with the help of Travis County taxpayers and the Board of Regents. 

McRaven said as the UT System grows, it will need an administration that can support and drive the work done and the System will also need to spend their money more efficiently. 

McRaven proposed a plan to cut 10 percent of the UT System Administration workforce, which is close to 130 full-time employees, by the end of 2017 to free up revenues to provide for students in the System. 

He has also implemented a soft hiring freeze for now and expects to be down to 794 full time employees by the beginning of 2018.

R. Steven Hicks, Board of Regents vice chairman, said he believes the administration can do more to provide for UT System students.

“I think this is a good start by cutting 10 percent of the workforce, but I think there’s a lot more that can be done,” Hicks said. “If we can save $10 million a year out of our budget, that could be used for two brand-new buildings on our campuses.”

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, is committed to supporting a world-class education and research, and to providing the best healthcare possible, which he believes is reflected from the increase in the budget. 

“A $17.9 billion budget is not something that any of us take lightly,” Foster said. “We recognize the enormous responsibility we have approving this.”