Reduced enrollment at the University of Montana over the past two years has led to what is being called a "hiring chill", to help reduce a deficit of nearly $9 million.

Vice President for Integrated Communications, Peggy Kuhr said on Friday, January 24, that the university depends on student enrollment for about two-thirds of its budget.

"These last two years, enrollment has been down," Kuhr said. "We've been graduating and moving through the school some very large classes over the past few years, with a couple years of smaller classes coming in. That has required us to look at where we are and address budget shortfalls."

Kuhr said there's good news and bad news regarding funding and expenses at the university.

"Even though we're talking shortfalls, next year, our general fund budget is going to grow by about $2 million," Kuhr said. "However, we are going to have some fixed costs that will rise, due to things like pay increases that were approved by the legislature and negotiated through the Board of Regents, and that's going to account for a deficit of about $5 and a half million dollars. Plus, there's another couple million dollars in fixed costs, so you're looking at about $9 million that has to be figured into next year's budget."

Kuhr said one of the tools to help balance the budget is a tactic called a "hiring chill".

"What a lot of people are talking about is a tool we're calling a hiring chill," Kuhr said. "I want to emphasize to your audience that this is not a hiring freeze. What it means is that if anyone is in a position to hire an employee because of retirement or because they've left the area, that job will not automatically be filled."

Kuhr said the university is also becoming more proactive in aggressively recruiting more students, so that future classes will return to levels where state funding will be increased.

"Over the last two years, we are down a total of 1,100 students, putting us at a level where we were back in 2007 and 2008," Kuhr said. "At the same time, we now have about 200 more employees. So, academically we have to ensure that we serve the students with the classes they want, however, for the rest of the university, are the services not needed to such a great extent, and are there efficiencies, because we are so dependent on enrollment."

UM Vice President for Integrated Communication Peggy Kuhr