Howard University, which recently finished the fiscal year with what appears to be its largest budget deficit ever, plans to review its operations as the 11,000-student school enters the beginning phases of cost-cutting measures.
Howard had a deficit of about $1 million in fiscal 1981 and the figure grew to $6 million in fiscal 1982, said Caspar Harris, Howard's vice president for fiscal affairs and the university's treasurer. Although firm figures are not yet available, Harris said that the deficit for fiscal 1983, which ended in June, would "probably be a little larger" than $6 million.
"Last year's was the highest we've had," Harris said, adding that the debt was not "uncontrollable."
Howard's fiscal 1983 budget was $220 million, Harris said. Fifty-five percent of the schools's budget comes from the federal government.
University officials said the deficits have been caused mainly by the acquisition of adjacent land near the Howard campus for possible future expansion, and by other major real estate purchases during the last few years.
Howard, for example, bought the Harambee House hotel from the federal Economic Development Administration for $1.3 million and converted it into the Howard Inn in 1981. The school also bought the Pepco building at Ninth Street and Barry Place NW for $1.5 million last year.
The old Harambee House was a debt-plagued operation before Howard bought it and Harris acknowledged that part of the deficit comes from the operation of the Inn. "We anticipated and planned for that," he said. "We know it will take two to five years to turn it all the way around."
Harris said that no definite plans had been made on ways to tighten the university's fiscal belt, and that the school has just begun to mull over the situation in hearings.
"Howard is no different from any other university. With inflation and retrenchment, many are experiencing financial difficulties and Howard is beginning to go through them," Harris said. Several other Howard officials, including university president James Cheek, were unavailable for comment.
Internal examinations, however, have already shown areas where standards should be tightened to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Undergraduate professors, for example, are required to teach at least 12 credit hours a semester. Harris said that professors in a number of departments were teaching an average of only nine hours.
"Some of them could have been involved in research. Some of them could have been given administrative duties," Harris said. Professors with teaching responsibilities only will be expected to teach the full 12 hours a semester, Harris said.
It was difficult to gauge immediately how faculty members felt about stricter enforcement of teaching time. Joseph Applegate, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said "I have not heard of this. I do not have any information."
Another area where costs could be cut involves class sizes. Undergraduate classes, without the prior consent of the dean of the particular course of study, are supposed to have at least 15 students in order to avoid wasted teaching time, but Harris said his office found classes with fewer than 15 students. "The deans were notified to get these things back on course," Harris said.
"This is nothing unusual," Harris said. "We are just doing what every other major university is doing--beginning to take a long look at ourselves, not only to eliminate deficits, but to find ways to cut costs, which is only good and prudent management."