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Tough times ahead?


Tough times ahead?

By Kim Burgess
Thursday, January 28, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — An advisory subcommittee to the Legislature indicated on Wednesday it will not support further budget cuts for higher education, a move that came after dire predictions from several university leaders, including Utah State University President Stan Albrecht.

Among the horror stories heard by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee was Albrecht’s report that the state’s proposed 13 percent budget reduction for the next fiscal year would force him to ax 180 faculty positions and 93 staff.

The fiscal year 2011 loss, projected at $20 million for USU, would touch every part of the institution, Albrecht said.

“When we talk about the cuts, it really is a potential train wreck,” he added.

Projections from the Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg show that across the state, more than 600 faculty and 760 staff would lose jobs as a result of the $93 million total elimination from FY11 budgets. Roughly 3,700 course sections would be cut.

At the same time, Utah’s public colleges and universities, are seeing record enrollments, adding more than 20,000 students since 2008. The combination adds up to incredible strain on faculty and staff, with many working through lunch and evenings, according to Snow College President Scott Wyatt, who also addressed the subcommittee.

“That is not something that can be sustained for years,” said Wyatt, saying the school would eliminate five or six programs if the 13 percent cut comes through.

Members of the subcommittee said they sympathized with the plight, with several saying that the body must send a strong message that cuts to higher education would be detrimental to the state’s students and its economic recovery.

Debate over how to word that message continues today.

During Wednesday’s meeting, some members said they supported a measure that would decline to provide recommendations to the Executive Appropriations Committee on how to take a 5 percent cut from higher education, which would be part of the total 13 percent cut.

Others felt that it would be better to include the 5 percent cut recommendations, which the Executive Appropriations Committee asked for, with a note that the subcommittee does not support the reduction. In the end, the entire Legislature will vote on the FY11 budget in March, meaning USU and other schools are not yet safe.

There is also another dark cloud hovering — new revenue figures that will come out in mid-February.

Several subcommittee members said early indications show that those numbers will not be good.