Colleges prep for cuts

By Rochelle McConkie, News Editor

College deans won’t be asking for much this holiday season.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. proposed a $1 billion statewide budget cut Dec. 4 that could mean up to a 14 percent cut in state funds for the U in the next fiscal year. Deans and administrators are planning how to make do with less and prepare for an uncertain financial future.

The school’s budget was cut 4 percent in October, and will likely see a 5 percent cut at the beginning of the spring session of the Utah State Legislature and another 5 percent cut at the start of the next fiscal year in July.

The governor’s budget cuts will hit almost all aspects of the state except K-12 education, which will see smaller cuts.

Vice President for Academic Affairs David Pershing said it is impossible to know the amount of the cut right now because it will depend on how Utah’s economy proceeds.

Pershing said the U cut would not be across the board because every college has a different situation. He said the central administration is taking a reduction to soften the cuts to each college and no college’s cut would exceed 14 percent.

“The way we expect to implement a cut this large is by using the help of local people,” Pershing said, referring to the deans, department chairs and faculty within the colleges. “The decisions are best made locally, not centrally.”

But there is one thing deans said they will try not to cut8212;academic programs.

“Preparing an educated workforce is critical to the economy,” said College of Health Dean James Graves. “The last thing we want to do is cut back on educational programs, but something has to give.”

The likely result for most colleges will be fewer faculty, fewer courses and more students per course, which could pose further problems because enrollment typically increases when the economy is poor.

Administrators said they do not anticipate having to let current faculty go and they are working to prevent having to lower faculty salaries.

Steve Ott, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science, said his college won’t be terminating any tenured or tenure-track professors, although the future is less certain for adjuncts and teaching assistants. Ott said his college has already terminated two searches for new faculty.

“The danger is all of this could get into a downward spiral of not replacing faculty,” which could result in fewer courses and fewer credit hours to bring in revenue, Ott said.

Dean Jack Brittain of the David Eccles School of Business said his college was planning to hire eight new faculty members this year, but is now only able to hire three. By not filling these five vacancies, the business school can put the money it would have spent on hiring into savings, which adds up to about $750,000.

But money in the business school is already tight. Brittain said the college used money it had on reserve to compensate for the initial 4 percent budget cut in October, but now it only has $20,000 in reserve funds.

“We’re pretty much wiped out,” he said.

If the budget cut adds up to 14 percent by the next fiscal year, the business school will suffer a total of $1.5 million in cuts.

Brittain said the U still plans to lobby for funding to renovate the business school, a measure that did not pass in the legislative session last spring. Brittain said the U might bond for the renovation and the construction project could act as an economic stimulus because of the number of jobs it would add to the state.

Although the magnitude of the cut is uncertain and might not be determined until after the legislative session8212;unless a special session is called8212;administrators have asked colleges to prepare now for the impending cuts.

Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said the college is looking into different scenarios for cuts.

“Each one could be very different,” he said. “It is looking at each situation and trying to achieve the required amount without decimating the quality of the programs, which is an extraordinary challenge.”

Aside from not hiring and consolidating programs, colleges and departments are looking for other practical ways to cut costs. The department of communication has identified ways to save, including cutting unused phone lines, discontinuing voice mail services on faculty phones and encouraging e-mail use, reducing travel budgets and reworking teaching loads so that the departments won’t have to cut curriculum even if they can’t hire as many faculty, according to an e-mail that went out to faculty.

Pershing said the U has not frozen hiring in some departments where filling new positions is critical. Although there will be no salary increases, he said administrators are working to prevent any kind of salary decrease for faculty, which would occur across the board.

“That’s so negative for morale,” Pershing said. “We’re trying to be as sensitive as possible to the human factor.”

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