Increased tuition, less faculty and decreased funding are a few of the concerns going through many minds at UVU because of the unstable economy resulting in budget cuts at UVU.
These are speculative concerns until the Utah State Legislature meets for its general session, slated to begin Jan. 26. Higher education and its budget will certainly be a hot topic during the session.
UVU already made a four percent budget reduction last September equaling more than $2.7 million when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. called a special legislative session to address the budget shortfalls from income and sales taxes.
A four percent budget cut was made at every state-funded higher education institution. As the Legislature meets again, faculty, staff and students alike will be waiting to see what is decided in regards to higher education funding.
“We may not have a complete outlook until the Legislature adjourns in March,” said Chris Taylor, UVU Spokesperson. “That said, the institution is doing its best to prepare for a second budget reduction, which is sure to come due to a shortfall in state tax revenue.”
For an explanation on how UVU will handle future budget cuts and how it will affect students and employees, turn to A2.
The effect of budget cuts on students and employees
In the recent budget reduction, UVU students were affected minimally since tuition wasn’t changed. But if more budget cuts are needed, UVU has the option to raise student tuition in order to meet its budget.
“[Student] fees aren’t something that feed the institution’s operation budget,” said Chris Taylor, UVU spokesperson. “Tuition, however, is one of the many things we’re looking at, but nothing is final at this point.”
Although increasing tuition is a possibility, Taylor said tuition costs tend to rise each year at colleges and universities nationwide, regardless of how the economy is doing.
Other options the institution is exploring include eliminating programs and services, increasing the adjunct-faculty ratio, reducing student services and restricting enrollments. These options are a concern to some students questioning limited resources and the quality of teaching available, as well as faculty’s deep concern for job security.
“One of the guiding principles of UVU is to safeguard the quality of the core academic and university experience for students,” Taylor said. Taylor explained that it is a goal at UVU to continue to have a full-time faculty that is consistent with university status and that UVU has quality teaching at both the full-time and adjunct levels.
Besides students, UVU employees are affected by budget cuts since UVU is looking at the possibilities of eliminating positions and personnel and reducing salaries, wages, and benefits.
Chuck Allison, president of the UVU Faculty Senate, said that members of the faculty have been expressing worries. Some have become creative and have said they are willing to donate one percent of their salary to keep colleagues on board. “I’m impressed that the faculty care about each other that much,” Allison said.
An option that UVU has offered to full-time, eligible for benefits employees is the Enhanced Voluntary Separation Retirement incentive. “This program allows for employees wishing to either voluntarily retire or to leave employment at UVU to receive a predetermined amount of money,” said UVU President Liz Hitch in an e-mail sent to employees.
The e-mail explained this incentive will allow UVU to attain a reduction in staff through voluntary attrition.
Although resourceful ideas have been suggested and implemented, it is speculated that there could be anywhere from three up to 11 percent worth of additional cuts from the Legislature. Therefore, there are still many students and employees at UVU that will be affected by budget cuts in one way or another.
How UVU will handle future budget cuts
One reason for both the recent and the possible future budget cuts is due to Utah’s reported shortfall of tax revenue. This affects UVU, along with other higher education institutions, because it relies on tax revenue money as part of its institution budget.
UVU receives $64.5 million from the state through tax revenue which accounts for 54 percent of UVU’s $124 million budget. This is significantly low when compared to other Utah institutions such as the College of Eastern Utah where state funds make up 85 percent of its total budget. Compared to any other higher education institution in Utah, UVU is the least state-funded institution and receives the fewest tax dollars per student.
Until the Legislature announces its budget plan, many continue to speculate and worry about what the possible future budget cuts could do to the school.
“Any future cuts will be strategic in nature rather than across the board,” said Chris Taylor, UVU Spokesperson. “Our first round of cuts was made across the board. Each of the institution’s five divisions was asked to bear an equal percentage. Future cuts will likely fall in line with the institution’s strategic directions.”
Anyone in the UVU community desiring to share ideas on how to save money within the institution is invited to e-mail [email protected]
Options the institution is currently exploring in terms of pending cuts:
Notify non-tenure track faculty of non-renewal of appointments
Increase adjunct faculty ratio and advising ratio
Reduce services–facilities, student services, etc.
Eliminate programs and services
Reduce/eliminate outreach activities
Implement a voluntary separation incentive program
Increase tuition for 2009-10
Restrict enrollments–first-come, first-serve within resources and space
Delay/cancel equipment purchases and replacements
Reduce salaries, wages, and benefits