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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Regents dealing with drastic budget cuts

By Michael McFall, News Editor

It’s nearing doomsday for higher education, so its highest echelons have called an emergency meeting.

Jed Pitcher, chair of the Utah State Board of Regents, called a special meeting for Friday afternoon to discuss the potential loss of as much as 17 percent from the higher education’s budget next school year.

Mathematically speaking, tuition for every university in Utah would have to go up more than 50 percent to cover the loss, said Spencer Jenkins, spokesman for the Regents.

“That’s not even an option,” he said.

The board will convene at its downtown headquarters to figure out what the budget situation is at each university, how it will make its case to the Legislature and what its options are if or when the ax comes down.

During the 2009 legislative session, lawmakers cut the state’s higher education budget 17 percent. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package reduced the 17 percent cut to 9 percent this year, but by June 2010, on the heels of the next legislative session, that money will be gone and the full cut will be felt. If universities have to handle the full 17 percent, which tuition will only cover in part, they will invariably lose faculty and staff, as they did last year.

“There’s only so much more that can be squeezed out of our campuses,” said William Sederburg, Utah’s commissioner of Higher Education, in a statement. “It’s a critical tipping point that state leaders must recognize.”

The cuts are coming at the same time the U’s enrollment is rising to record-breaking levels. Just this semester, the U’s enrollment hit just below 30,000 students.

That’s possibly the highest it’s ever been at the U, said Paul Brinkman, associate vice president for academic affairs at the September meeting of the U Board of Trustees.
It’s a similar story at every Utah university8212;across the state, student enrollment is up 28,000 students, according to the Regents.

The Regents have to present the Legislature with the dangerous combination of a record number of students flowing into the universities and a harmful number of faculty and staff losing their jobs, Jenkins said.

Last month, U President Michael Young met with Gov. Gary Herbert to discuss the U’s situation. In a radio interview with KCPW, Young said that after a 17 percent cut, U tuition will unquestionably rise, the U will lose at least $250 million in research funding and8212; in a precise example8212;the U’s chemistry department will lose its lab technicians.

The Regents have an obligation to advise the state’s lawmakers about higher education’s serious concerns, Pitcher said in a statement. By the time the board members recess Friday afternoon, they’ll have a battle plan for how they’ll do it.

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