State schools join Clemson in funding struggles
Renewed emphasis on agriculture will highlight the reorganization.
by WILL SPINK
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on March 7, 2003 | PRINT

"These are tough times for everybody," UNC-Chapel Hill Provost Robert Shelton said as he summed up a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

Shelton had just finished detailing what his university is doing to cope with another round of cuts from its state appropriations. And as he pointed out, they are certainly not alone. Individual schools have taken hits as large as $66.5 million at Indiana University and 23.7 percent at the University of Virginia in this year alone, according to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges.

Clemson is another one of the many schools across the nation that are currently determining what to do with their state budget cuts. The University received another $5 million cut from its funding a couple of weeks ago, and in the 2001 fiscal year, tuition had already increased 42 percent.

Legislators and administrators have warned, however, that the cuts are not over, and the state could send down an even larger percentage reduction July 1. State funding is already around its 1996 level, according to University budget director Alan Godfrey.

Godfrey feels that this national trend is occurring because of a combination of the general economic recession and the shift toward smaller government. He stated that in the boom years of the 1990s states expanded spending and started new programs. Now that most states are collecting lower revenues from both sales and income taxes, they are still having to support these programs they set up.

One of the ways that many universities are dealing with the cuts is by increasing tuition and fees. Godfrey explained that this is often necessary because student fees and state appropriations make up a very large portion of most university budgets.

"If you ignore fees, you've got nothing left that you can increase," Godfrey said. Many universities near Clemson and across the nation are already making significant changes, including some large tuition increases, to deal with their reduction in state funding.

UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill, which like Clemson receives less than one-third of its total budget from the state, has received budget cuts of five percent this fiscal year, according to associate budget director Doug Council. However, slightly less than 3 percent of these cuts are projected to be permanent, or carry over to the next fiscal year.

Provost Shelton admitted that "the goal is always to minimize the impact on instruction, but that's hard to do." He also termed a recent class size increase "worrisome" and added that the university has delayed tenure of faculty and made significant cuts to its support units in order to soften the blow.

Shelton explained that in North Carolina they are often told which budget categories must be cut when they receive their reductions. Thus, they have limited flexibility for how to handle the drop in funds.

Another problem that is true for many universities is that research grants and individual donations are often limited to a specific task as well. Shelton said that UNC has $500 million for construction, but "now we just need to make sure we have faculty to fill the buildings." He said that he is "optimistic" about getting that done.

University of Virginia

The 23.7 percent cut that UVA is dealing with this year will only be outdone by a 30.7 percent, or $51.6 million cut for the 2003-2004 year, according to budget director Melody Bianchetto.

Bianchetto said that tuition increased by 9 percent this fall, increased minimally in the middle of the year, and will increase over 5 percent again next year. And these tuition hikes will cover only half of the budget cuts.

The school is also holding positions vacant, eliminating many part-time instructors, offering fewer class sections with larger class sizes and decreasing library purchases in an effort to deal with the reduction. In effect, basically every sector of the university is suffering.

However, they have not yet been forced to lay off full-time faculty, as their neighbors at Virginia Tech have. Virginia Tech suffered a 23.4 percent cut and as a result has or will eliminate 392 positions, including 154 faculty positions, according to the NASULGC. In addition, students are paying more -- $1,000 tuition increase already hit, and more is on the way -- and being offered less, as nearly 200 course sections have been dropped.

Auburn University

Auburn is another state school receiving less than one-third of its budget from the state. Although its total funding from the state of Alabama has increased to $557.8 million in 2003, the school still imposed a 2.7 percent tuition increase.

Arizona State University

In Arizona, the state Board of Regents is expected to announce a record tuition increase of around 40 percent as early as this weekend. The state funds, which make up about 40 percent of Arizona State's budget, have already been cut by over $15 million and may be cut another $13 million before the end of this fiscal year.

The presidents of the University of Arizona, Arizona State and Northern Arizona recently asked the Board of Regents to increase the tuition by 44 percent for next year.

"The state's investment in higher education will not keep pace with the services and quality enhancements that our growing student enrollments demand," ASU president Michael Crow wrote in his report to the board.

Texas universities

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and the funding issues there are more complex, if not larger, than anywhere else in the nation. A drop in sales tax revenues and a rise in spending created a $9.9 billion budget shortfall in the state.

Universities have proposed a variety of methods for dealing with the resulting 9 percent reduction in funds, but virtually every state school will suffer.

The University of Texas-Austin is preparing to lose 250 faculty and 300 administrators, according to president Larry Faulkner. Similar cuts are coming at North Texas, although it will probably lose only 200 faculty.

University of Houston president Arthur Smith is proposing a 50 percent increase in tuition and fees as well as possible staff cuts, while Texas Tech is facing a 19 percent tuition hike.

"Faculty hiring will come to a stop, and staff reductions will begin," Smith said. "Next year's students will find fewer course sections and larger classes. Marked reductions in retention and graduation rates will come as early as (2005). Research productivity will decline significantly within two to three years."

Some state officials have said that about 5,000 of the 80,000 students who have been promised free tuition when they enter college should not get the money in an effort to save money for balancing the budget, but Governor Rick Perry disagrees.

"It's a bad idea," he said of cutting the funding to that scholarship program. As an alternative, he proposes deregulating tuition so that the individual schools can set their own costs. He feels that this will help to alleviate the budget crisis in his state.

While the situation at Clemson is certainly serious, other universities around the nation are facing arguably more serious situations. President James Barker has said that while he is concerned, he is hoping to come out of the crisis even stronger than the University was before the cuts.

As at other colleges, administrators are already making decisions on how to deal with cuts at the University, and as Godfrey pointed out, tuition increases certainly could be part of that. But for now, the leaders of Clemson are portraying a much brighter outlook for the future than many others.

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