Budget woes leave higher education institutions with tough choicesWritten by Quintin Ellison
Up to 1,700 jobs, perhaps a whole campus eliminated — the dire picture painted this month by Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, on the state of higher education during these tough economic times isn’t pretty.
Locally, staff and faculty at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, Southwestern Community College in Sylva and Haywood Community College in Clyde are preparing for significant budget cuts.
Most likely, a 10-percent reduction is coming. State colleges and universities across North Carolina, however, are outlining what they’d do in response to higher and lower reductions, as directed by the UNC system and The State Board of Community Colleges.
“We are hearing talk of impending heavy slashing and have been asked to prepare scenarios of how we would deal with 5-, 10- and even 15-percent cuts,” said Rose Hooper Garrett, public information officer for SCC, via email.
A year ago, the UNC system took a $70 million cut, or less than 3 percent.
Sorting it out
“At this point, it’s too early in the process to provide the actual impact of what a 10-percent budget reduction would do to the overall operations of WCU,” said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance for the university.
“It’s fair to say that most likely we will have fewer class sections, more students in each class, more dependence on part-time faculty, reduced funds for faculty travel and professional development, fewer funds for general operations such as supplies and equipments, elimination of vacant positions, possible elimination of positions that are currently filled, and reduced funds for general maintenance of the physical plant of the campus.”
Here’s what is happening: North Carolina is facing a budget deficit of $3.5 billion.
At 5 percent, the UNC system would cut $135 million and likely eliminate 800 jobs. At 10 percent, the UNC system would cut $270 million and eliminate 1,700 jobs.
“We’re really going to impact the academic side,” the Associated Press quoted Bowles as saying.
Rose Harrell Johnson, president of Haywood Community College, said the community college would lose more than $1,306,478 with a 10-percent reduction.
“For comparison, the college received an increase of $1,213,111 in state funding this fiscal year because it had a 10.77 percent enrollment increase,” Johnson said. “If the budget reduction becomes reality, the college will lose its enrollment growth budget increase and potentially more.”
Among other measures, Garrett said SCC has been considering tuition increases.
“At the system office we will look at operations, contracts and personnel,” she said.
Preparing for the worst
Wooten said WCU anticipated budget reductions by making a number of decisions in the 2009-2010 fiscal year to take in budget reductions totaling about 8 percent, which eliminated 93.92 positions.
“After satisfying budget reductions for 2010-11, $4,404,792 remained for use against future budget reductions,” Wooten said.
WCU would see reductions of $8,638,874 at the 10-percent level and $4,319,437 at the 5 percent level, he said.
“WCU’s plan, which was submitted to the Office of State Budget and Management, would first offer up the full amount remaining from previous budget reductions ($4,404,792) to satisfy the 5-percent budget reduction plan, and campus divisions and departments have identified additional budget reductions ($4,234,082) to satisfy a 10-percent budget reduction plan … (this) would potentially eliminate 41.08 positions in the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.”