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