‘Humboldt State Is Facing a Looming Financial Crisis’

Lumberjack football

Because of financial issues, HSU’s football program was only saved from being cut this year due to the support of a passionate fanbase. [Photo from  HSU Football’s webpage]

Lisa A. Rossbacher, Humboldt State University’s president, sent out the following letter late yesterday to the campus community giving an explanation of the University’s finances.

Dear University Community,

At this afternoon’s Budget Open Forum, information was shared about the challenges we face as we seek to balance our budget in coming years. Because some could not attend, I want to provide you an overview of what was presented and to let you know where you can find additional information.

Humboldt State is facing a looming financial crisis based on a combination of intersecting factors: The changing higher education landscape, insufficient state funding, looming economic downturn, increasing mandatory costs, fluctuating enrollment, and deficit spending. The campus has held a series of open forum meetings to discuss how these factors have impacted the financial landscape on the campus.

The University community is committed to our shared responsibility in promoting student success, equity and diversity, fiscal stability, and stewardship. HSU resolves to address the financial limitations of the foreseeable future while emphasizing the values of outstanding education and evidence of student learning, teaching excellence, diversity and inclusion, and the University’s linkages to local and regional communities and cultures.

In short,

due primarily to ongoing deficit spending in some areas, unfunded increases in salary and benefits, a continued decline in enrollment, and projections based on the recent state budget for 2018-19 proposed by the Governor (which Chancellor White called “concerning and surprising”).

The Phase I budget reductions, which were implemented this year, and the planned reductions now being considered for Phase II are an important starting point in addressing this problem. As we entered this year, we had reduced expenditures by about $1.5 million, and progress was being made on an additional $2.8 million in reductions.

Now, based on the Governor’s budget, enrollment projections, and other factors, HSU’s Budget Office estimates we are facing a $7 million deficit during 2018-19 that would grow to a $9 million deficit in 2019-20. To put this in perspective, our overall operating budget is about $134 million this year, and we currently have just over $6 million in operating reserves.

If we do not address this deficit now, we will face a fiscal emergency.  In the meeting today, the following immediate, short-term, and long-term actions were announced:

Immediate steps:

  • Implement a 5% reduction in current year operating expense budgets (non-personnel)
  • No tenure-line faculty position requests for fall 2019
  • Hiring chill: All staff and administrator hiring requests continue to be approved by Cabinet with the intent of reducing recruitments over the next 18 months
  • Academic Programs and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness will assist the Colleges in building fall 2018 and spring 2019 class schedules that align available instructional resources with student course need
  • All General Fund travel expenditures and other expenditures of $2,000 or more must be approved by the appropriate Vice President

Some short-term steps we will be taking:

  • Cabinet will incorporate Phase II feedback into the February 22 reduction plan
  • University Resources & Planning Committee (URPC) is developing a budget oversight policy
  • Benchmark and recalibrate our spending by category (FIRMS codes) based on CSU system data
  • Reduce an estimated 40-50 budgeted staff and administrator positions
  • Reduce temporary faculty appointments in fall 2018
  • Reorganize or consolidate units and functions
  • Identify and implement process improvements

And longer term steps:

  • Complete and implement Strategic Enrollment Management plan
  • Rigorous review of all programs (administrative and academic) on campus
  • Integrated assessment, planning, and budget process
  • Enhanced fundraising efforts

The President’s Cabinet will continue to consult and build upon the recommendations and feedback that have been part of the Phase II process to develop a proposed budget by February 22. The URPC will then review the plan and provide recommendations. I expect to approve the 2018-19 budget by March 29.

For additional context about these budget challenges, please see my prior message from July 19. For information on the CSU response to the Governor’s recent budget proposal, click here.

To view the slides from today’s presentation and additional information about the University’s budget, visit the Budget Office website. The sections on “Campus Budget Planning” and “URPC” contain updated documents and information on upcoming years.

I know it is difficult to contemplate these types of budget reductions for our campus as a whole, or for your particular area. For me, it helps to remain firmly focused on our shared values and commitments. We all want the very best for our students; we want them to have an outstanding educational experience and to achieve great success. I will do my part to keep our values and commitments at the forefront of our work as we move forward together.

With best wishes,

Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ph.D.




  • Hey- Maybe HSU can combine w/ The Mateel and hold Reggae at the football field? Win-Win….Everybody can camp in the Community Forest since they’re doing it anyway!

  • Hmmm… Guess they should have thought the costs of the $200,000 ‘sign’ at the ‘gates’.

  • Legal weed + HSU’s predictable demise = a devastating blow to Humbold’t past economic base. Brace yourselves. It’s coming unless something changes…and fast…

  • First thing that should have been done is to get rid of 95% of Humanities courses. These useless courses and the degree they bring do nothing that will give a person who will go into the real world needing to find work (which is the real reason you are attending a college, right?). Too many courses like Introduction to Women in Humanities, Gender and Women’s Studies, Popculture and the Arts, The Global Village, and Social Movements are setting the students and HSU up for failure. Trying dropping them all. You and the students will survive.

    • timetoget. lol dont forget a masters in drums and transgender studies. morons.

    • These are the degrees that are offered:

      Business Administration
      Child Development (Liberal Studies)
      Child Development/Elementary Education (Liberal Studies)
      Computer Science
      Criminology & Justice Studies
      Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies
      Dance Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies)
      Environmental Resources Engineering
      Environmental Science & Management
      Environmental Studies
      Fisheries Biology
      French & Francophone Studies
      International Studies
      Leadership Studies (Interdisciplinary Studies)
      Liberal Studies/Elementary Education
      Native American Studies
      Political Science
      Rangeland Resource Science
      Recreation Administration
      Religious Studies
      Social Work
      Theatre Arts

      Here are the Master’s Programs
      Applied Anthropology
      Business Administration
      Environmental Systems
      Natural Resources
      Social Science – Environment & Community
      Social Work

      Almost all are very mainstream. That said: in my opinion taking classes in gender studies, music, etc. make for a well-rounded human being. People who go to college should get more than a better job. They should learn a broad range of thinking tools and skill sets to make them into better human beings.

      • When did being a better human being come to mean mouthing acceptable platitudes, learning nothing useful because you are owed what you want because you were born? All the while being insulated from the crap reality you create by pot use? Because that apparently is what has happened. A world with few people having any useable skills at all, who prefer growing drugs to growing food, all the while demanding a ever increasing share of the wealth created by the ever shrinking class of people who are willing to do hard and/or boring but necessary work.

        Our heros are actors who spout words rather than do what needs doing. When was the last time public praise was given to those getting up everyday to do a full day’s work? Who worries about those are self supporting but carrying an increasing heavy parasite load as if the only reason for their existance was to feed the parasites? No. Instead there is an ever spreading blight of demands and complaints to magically fix the mess created by self labeled “better human beings” who are rapidly burning through the accumulated wealth of their ancestors.

      • I was focusing more on the Department of Critical Race Gender and Sexuality Studies. Read that Department Summary. If they are in financial straights, they shouldn’t be getting involved in people’s lives this way and definitely never should have.

        • I think we are different. I hope students take a variety of classes–I’ve used my understanding gained from my Women in Pornography Class more than I ever used anything from my Calculus class–Both of which were taught by excellent teachers.

    • A University is a place to expand your mind, not just somewhere to go so you can make more money.

      • Another in the continuing rationalizations. And a nice goal if your willing to pay for it yourself.

        I wonder what the percentage of people working outside their degrees is. Because that was my experience. I got the degree and started work for an employer who demanded a degree while nothing he did had anything to do with the degrees he hired. And, in fact, he resented any attempt to apply things learned in college.

  • Thank you Governor Brown for running my state into the ground , election is just around the corner Governor Brown just bumped up our fuel taxes, more taxes and regulations for taxpaying businesses, lots of them are leaving the state for more business friendly states,thus less tax revenue. Remember this in the next election vote for John Cox or Travis Allen . Or you could vote for another flaming [edit] like Gavin Newsome for more of the same higher taxes and regulations equals broke institutions in the state of California when will you learn California?

  • Hmmm, maybe start with cutting top-heavy administrative salaries.

    • An EXCELLENT place to start, at the TOP for a change instead of the BOTTOM as always!!!

      • Sharpen your pencil

        Lol, this would mean they would have to practice what they preach…. Never been a strong point. The university spends money at somewhat or an alarming rate, it would seem. With all the housing, signage and other crap(like the toilet paper they need bought for them). The motto of spend spend spend, and expect it all to be covered by the “DREAMERS” is asinine!

    • Admin salaries are high but there are very few of them like that. So cutting them is not going to relieve the budget. I like the bit about ‘looming economic turndown.” The memo sounds like a commander of an army say “ready, aim…” Fire is coming soon. Ah, the ugliness of academia where everything is governed by politics. They are a squabbling little community.

      Just look at the housing near the University to see who gets the money. One of the few places in the county that looks like the richest southern California suburbs.

      • Regardless, it’s a start. It’s hard to sympathize with Rossbacher when she makes something close to 400k per year… and still fails to keep the university solvent. She’d be fired long ago if it was private sector.

        • It’s a non starter. Just approaching the precious benefits and perks of the instructional class of the university will result screams. Yes, adminstration is well paid but it’s because they generate the wealth that which the instructional class is so very fond of having but doesn’t want to dirty themselves by getting.

          Universities are in the business of mass marketing a lifestyle. Only a few students who are capable of self motivation are focused enough to gain a real education. The rest never notice the lack.

        • She has been there for like two years.

        • Heck, tenured professors are a very expensive proposition. Demanding, self aggrandizing, hugely benefited forever, self important and impossible to fire, insulated and coddled by the administration they despise, unless they choose to provide value themselves, they can’t be forced because no one can make them.

          A good professor is a treasure but way, way, way too many are more interested in advancing their personal agendas and feeling stroked by students who are totally inexperienced than producing results. It’s a profession that turns a blind eye to failures and frequently a blind eye to the successful too. Let an instructor offend students by being too demanding, and he will hear about it. Let him provide easy classes, even if uninterested in students themselves, and he will be lionized. Oh well. It’s called an ivory tower for a reason.

    • Comments that are not backed up with numbers.

      And how much are the Top Heavy Admin salaries?

        • Apparently, administration salaries are about 8.5 million versus 29.6 million for instructional staff salaries and 26.6 for other staff.

          But then, while complaining about administrative salaries going up more than their own, instructional staff is just fine with recruiting out of area, access to perks like gyms and cafeterias, loves their flexible (meaning non teaching hours) work requirements, special programs like child care, sabbaticals, health insurance, etc too. They like to use what administration generates.

          Frankly, universities have become less about education and more about the “experience.” And someone has to be doing the work that makes that a primary recuiting gambit. Teaching faculty won’t.

          It would be wonderful if Universities sold themselves on education alone, leaving students to seek them out for that reason but they don’t. If they did, there would be probably 1/3 less students (my best guess.)

  • The more you spend, the more you need.

  • How about closing HSU? Problem solved. A failed instution with a history of poor leadership. Those who can do, those who can’t…teach. A cliche but true.

    • Speaking as someone who got their teaching degree at HSU…[edit] ;>

      • But it’s even worse. It is an educational institution that worries less about the social turmoil locally, which it could do something about, than the urban agendas of which it will always be a very minor player.

        It should be a place that local treasure. It has turned itself into just another government tool to screw rural areas over.

        • I was speaking about the comment about those who can do and those who can’t teach.


            • While I have never been a fan of formal Ed and degrees I thirst for knowledge, and have several hundred course credit hours under my belt. From the fifty or so formal classes I have taken in my life I can count on one hand the number of instructors that understood what they were teaching. Those instructors taught me the most. So I agree with both statements many that can’t do teach but the ones who can and make it their life’s work to share their passions with others are the true gems. I wonder if hsu had kept their nursing program if it wouldn’t be better off today

  • HSU first admitted far too many students for the amount of housing available, now they are claiming that the college is underfunded?

    Is HSU run by the same folks who run the Mateel and the Jerold Phelps Hospital?? Jeeze, everyone in Humboldt is BROKE and needs a handout?

    Well, you can get a job at HSU, as long as you want to work for half of the going rate, and you can be a student there, if you like horrible weather year round and don’t mind living in your car…

    I think people should refuse to go to school there until they get their shit together! Lots of other colleges…

    It’s just a baby-college anyway, the students are all on welfare and financial aid, and they don’t do anything but drink and screw and get high anyway! Like college kids everywhere!

    Hey, raise taxes, like they want to do in [edit]… It’s a hard sell for a Hippie-college, but you can always try!

    • Your comment shows your ignorance. My child works two jobs, takes twenty units of hard core science, engineering and math courses. 100% work and studying and no parties for my child. HSU is tops in environmental engineering majors. Think before you make these kinds of idiotic, hurtful and unsubstantiated claims.

      • As a parent who went to University of CA, and who saw two daughters through private colleges, I am far from ignorant!

        Life is better with a degree! I am glad there are students working hard to do something difficult! I hope your child does well, avoids the diversions, and has a great life.

        I do think that HSU has lost it’s focus, and is being operated in an irresponsible manner, both for the students and the University.

  • Comments that are not backed up with real numbers.

    The University of California, Berkeley, Santa Cruz should incorporate HSU as a satellite campus offering BA level courses only. All General Education courses would be sent to College of the Redwoods. Only 300 and 400 level courses would be at HSU. College of the Redwoods would offer teacher prep courses and RN Nursing. Money saved from 300-400 courses not being offered at UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz and advanced degree courses not offered at HSU could be used to offset shortfalls in the budgets of three campuses. Art and music classes would be offered at CR and HSU, but if you want a BA or higher degree in art or music you would need to transfer to UC Santa Cruz. Math, chemistry and physics degrees would transfer to UC Berkeley. And I am sure there are other degree subjects that could be factored into a solution.

    • I like your idea, but UCSC is operated in a rather screwy manner, in a town where there is also no housing. These campuses are pretty but poor planning and execution have led these institutions into big sticky messes!

      UC Davis is a good example, plentiful on-campus housing was built a few years ago, but they upped the enrollment of foreign students who now compose over 50% of the student-body, and there are over 45,000 students in what used to be a nice little town!

      If folks are genuinely concerned about our state running campuses like this, everyone should contact the governor’s office with their complaints! It’s easy, do it online.

      Meanwhile, there are many out of state colleges, and lots of them have better financial aid and scholarship programs than we have in CA. Massachusetts, for instance. Check them out! A bit of planning can help you to avoid the mess California has made of it’s State Universities.

  • Great training ground for bussers and servers. Can’t do too much with a Woman’s Studies or Modern Art degree.

  • That’s ok, the country needs lots more bartenders and massage therapists and clerical folks…

    Good luck competing with your BA from Hippie U…

    OR: Become an HR “professional”! That’s something that takes no skills or background to do a poor job…

  • Including benefits, Lisa Rossbacher (President), gets over $400,000 per year!!!! there are many other high priced administrators, not professors that are entrenched at HSU. Clean the slate, get rid of the administrators that have run this fine institution into the ground.

    Really, they have been around for a long time and have led HSU to the financial hardship they find themselves in now, they created this mess. Get rid of them.

  • She didn’t mention the part about the administrators who squandered tons of money the last few years, especially the athletic director. Her predecessor started all this. They all skate while the students are left to share the burden.

  • Well there’s that whole unsolved murder thing too… that doesn’t help

  • Well, at least she’s not wasting any money hiring a copyeditor to tell her not to write “looming” twice in the same sentence.

  • I remember once talking to an HSU employee who I assumed was an instructor. Dealing with a complex issue, I was very pleased to find he listened, asked pertinent questions and grasped the ideas quickly. I told him that was not my usual experience with HSU professors,who generally were too busy defending their superior thinking ability to listen, trying to tell me I was wrong without understanding and too fixed on their own ideas to get anywhere. It was pretty much just arithmatic after all. I was impressed. And told him I was.

    He told me that he was not instructional staff but administration.

    I admit that experience has colored my views. If it wasn’t for the science instructors (and not all of even them), I would totally despair of the University creating anything useful.

    • What is this “looming economic downturn”? It is coming soon?! Do they know something that is not being talked about publicly? Sure- we have a local weed-money problem and there are always Chicken Littles telling us about how the national economy is about to bust but…here we have a statement from University administration telling us there is a “looming economic downturn”. That is interesting! And troubling. Did anybody else notice the gravity of that phrase?

      • Yeah, that tripped me out, too. It was a bad week for stocks, so I guess everything is about to fall apart.

        Not that I don’t expect more collapse–but, I also wasn’t aware that it was accepted by normals as a “looming” thing.

      • Uh, we’re supposed to listen to an out of touch University President who is facing a $7,000,000 annual deficit (ballooning to $9,000,000) when she talks economics? She can blame the “looming economic downturn” she sees in her convenient scapegoat crystal ball. But if it’s my money (and it is) I’m consulting someone else. A good justification for outsourcing. When you think of HSU’s strong departments, Economics isn’t one of them.
        Retention is HSU’s problem. I’d guess most Freshmen they’ve courted either flunk out or leave by their second year. How’s the graduation rate at HSU compared to similar schools? I’m guessing pretty low

  • There is something of a baby bust going on in California and in the US as a whole. It means that each year there are fewer college age kids graduating high school leaving many colleges scrambling for bodies. Many universities are trying to fill that gap with adult and foreign students, but will HSU draw much from abroad? Its resource related programs are respected, but it is basically a second tier college and such colleges are facing even more extreme financial pressures, especially as state funding declines due to other demands on tax collections (pensions) and tuition becomes more important to these schools’ budgets. HSU could possibly pare back to what it is known for, but there ain’t no magic fix to fewer high school kids these days.

    • Well of course there isn’t. However that has been the problem with most things for the last thirty or so years. Companies have to show growth, when as a nation there is a underlying understanding that our global population is growing at an alarming rate folks are wise to not want to bring more into this world , folks are failing to find aways to show growth from the normal increase in population as fewer Americians are growing their families. This leads to less financially stable students being the pool to grow from. We will always need legal immigration to grow our economy, however we are past the tipping point of social spending from public dollars and private earnings. With automation increasing we will see a steady decline in labor markets. Sure there will have to be someone to fix the machines, however they won’t be paid like they were as the profit margines will be shrinking . There never has been or will be a silver bullet to correct these problems.

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