Kent State resumes collecting state funds after forced pandemic cuts

Kent State will receive funding previously halted due to forced pandemic cuts.

Ian Jameson Reporter

Kent State will receive state funding previously halted in May due to forced pandemic cuts. Kent State hopes introducing state money will allow for better management of pandemic expenses and for lost revenue. 

“The provost’s office is currently working on programs to help students who may need additional academic assistance due to the remote environment,” said Jeannie Reifsnyder, the senior associate vice president of finance and administration. “Additional openings of programs and events are being dictated by required safety measures, not financial constraints.”

State support accounts for about 24 percent of Kent State’s total university revenue. Even with budget cuts, Kent State said it managed to maintain regular financial operations throughout the pandemic.

When funding was cut off last spring, Kent State had to reduce its budget by $30 million, or 20 percent, to remain operational, according to an Akron Beacon Journal article. These cuts mainly came from staff salaries ranging from 2 percent to 20 percent.

In September 2020, Kent State Board of Trustees approved a $595 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year. That budget was a $65 million, or 10 percent, decrease compared with the previous fiscal year. Additionally, Kent State staff salaries were reverted to their pre-pandemic amounts on Jan. 27, according to a WFMJ 21 article.

Despite the shift in finances, virtual learning and the pandemic, Reifsnyder says Kent State has had a surprisingly good academic year.

“Spring enrollment was better than anticipated. Admission applications and housing applications for fall are trending ahead of the current year,” Reifsnyder said. 

The Kent State administration hopes the availability of vaccinations will allow the university operations and events to return by the fall. 

The university’s funding was reinstated due to an executive order Gov. Mike DeWine passed on Jan. 22. The order allots $160 million to the Department of Education and $100 million to the Department of Higher Education for fiscal year 2021 ending on June 30. 

Despite this, the order also upholds the $390 million budget cut made by state agencies that end on June 30. 

State Share of Instruction funding, or Ohio’s main method of subsidizing the instructional costs at public institutions of higher education to reduce tuition costs, was lowered at the end of fiscal year 2020. DeWine said this was due to the anticipated impact the pandemic would have on state revenues.

However, according to DeWine, as a result of better-than-expected revenues, funding was reinstated to pre-pandemic levels.

DeWine also said he made it a priority to shield high-poverty zones in these budget restrictions as opposed to slashing funding across the board. This prevented certain school districts from losing millions of dollars in funding when other areas could have afforded it, said Ary Amerikaner of EdTrust, a national civil rights and education group, in an interview with Chalkbeat. 

“In the springtime, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and on Ohio’s revenues, was dire. With this, reductions were made to the state’s biennial budget,” DeWine said in a statement on Jan. 22. 

DeWine also said “as many schools, colleges and universities return to in-person learning, it’s important that the funding be reinstated.”

Ian Jameson covers the Statehouse. Contact him at [email protected]