The Battalion

Dollars and sense

Budget cuts loom

By Sarah Ammerman, Rebecca Bennett, Vicky Flores

Published: Sunday, July 25, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012

dollars and sense

Evan Andrews — THE BATTALION

buget chart

SOURCE: Based on Annual Operating Budgets

The economic downturn is affecting universities across the nation, and Texas A&M is also being forced to plan for the worst.

With University President R. Bowen Loftin's statement July 20, 2010 that the University is preparing for a $60 million budget reallocation affecting approximately 485 jobs, the overall feeling around campus is an uneasy one.


University's plan

For the biennial budget of 2012-2013, the Texas Legislature has asked institutions of higher learning to prepare a preliminary plan of the budget if a 10 percent budget cut passes in the legislature.

"The state has asked for 5 percent increments to come up with what we need to do. We have a 5 percent plan, and we have a 10 percent plan," said Konrad Johnson, student body vice president and senior finance major.

Texas A&M has asked each department and auxiliary to submit preliminary plans of how each department would cut 10 percent of spending.

The 10 percent budget cut is not a choice coming from the University but from the legislature and will affect all public institutions of higher learning.

"All types of businesses, people and industries have to change or modify the way their daily business is run due to the state of the economy," said state Rep. Fred Brown. "It is not an easy task but one that is necessary to continue."

State money is allocated toward specific areas of the University.

"Eighty-nine percent goes to paying people directly on our faculty and our staff, 6 percent funds scholarships and 5 percent funds operations, mostly utilities," Loftin said.

Loftin said that because so much of state funding goes to faculty, the University could not avoid such a large cut in that area.

Faculty and staff cuts that have been planned include 275 vacant positions and 210 filled positions.

"The basis of [the] cuts will mostly be unfilled positions, and hopefully the University will be able to get by without having people lose their jobs," Brown said.

Colleges across the campus are preparing plans to handle the cuts, and most hits will be taken in the nontenured faculty and graduate teaching assistant areas, said Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science.

"What we have been doing is getting each college and each division, going through and planning what they would do to cut their budget by 10 percent," said Jacob Robinson, student body president and senior leadership studies major.

If a 10 percent budget cut is passed, $39 million will be asked back from the state, and $21 million will be gathered by the University to reallocate to departments that will be cut the most, totaling $60 million in planned budget cuts.

"Here is the problem. If you look at your university, you have your services and you have your academics. Now academics comprise, say 80 percent of what a university is, and state money goes primarily to academics. So if you pull $39 million out of academics, then you have a sudden drop in academics," Johnson said. "Your other services that run on their own still have their $21 million. We are trying to figure out a way to balance the scales so that we can remain strong as a whole."

Administration and student government officials said these plans are only preliminary and will not take effect until fiscal year 2012.

"Right now all this is saying is this is what Texas A&M would do if we were asked to cut the budget by X amount. So that's all this is," Robinson said.

Although some departments have already been told which staff members will be let go. The department of continuing education will have to cut five staff members, two of which are retiring, by Aug. 31, 2010.

"I think we owe people the ability to tell them as soon as we know," Loftin said. "We should be able to begin to identify specific staff positions we are going to be able to reduce to meet budget requirements, there is no game to be had to wait a whole year to be told about that."



Cuts will affect students

If the budget cuts are passed, students will notice a decrease in the faculty-to-student ratio.

"They will be in a couple of areas; the most important area is instructional. We will do everything we can to maintain the highest-quality instructional environment for the students," Loftin said. "But because we are going to have to lose some people, that means a little larger class size and that always has an impact on the students."

Other differences students will notice are changes in access to student services and tangible items. Many student worker positions will be eliminated, and hours for the Student Recreation Center and Open Access Labs will be reduced.

"We have fewer staff people to help with advising, fewer staff people to help with student affairs. Some of the tangible things like toilet paper in residence halls may be a problem here. You will have to chip in to make a difference on yourselves if you live on campus," Loftin said.

However, deans said they will try to maintain student options for courses in their colleges.

"Our first goal is not to lower how many students, how many seats will be available in the courses. But because the number of the faculty will go down, the size of the classes will go up," said Newton.

Although the University will be cutting faculty, Loftin said he plans to maintain student enrollment.

"We don't have a lot of capacity to increase our enrollment a lot. I don't want to decrease it though, so I don't anticipate having any fewer students coming to the campus," Loftin said.

Some areas will be affected more than others, but the goal is to minimize the impact on the students and maintain high quality of education, said the deans.

"I do not anticipate that the budget reduction plan in the College of Liberal Arts will lead to an elimination of core curriculum courses, although there may be an increase in the size of some classes and a decrease in the number of sections offered. The same holds for courses required for majors in the college," said José Luis Bermúdez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Accompanying changes to the University's budget is an increase in tuition for the upcoming fiscal year. Although it is the lowest of any state's flagship university, Texas A&M will see a 2.8 percent increase in overall tuition and a 2.2 percent increase in mandatory fees.

"Right now the Board of Regents has set tuition with a 2.8 increase, with a promise of a zero percent increase the following year," Robinson said.

Administrators said they are working around the clock to create plans that will help soften the blows that are taking place throughout the University. Still, students are expressing their concerns.

"I think the quality of the work will suffer because of the quantity of students. It's the same with public schools in the elementary schools. The bigger the class size, the harder it is to get the lesson out there," said Reed Williams, sophomore political science major.

Due to the elimination of several teaching assistant and graduate assistant positions, students will not receive the same individual attention in the classroom that they have grown to expect.

"I think it will definitely affect the lower-level classes, more of the freshman courses because you rely on your TAs more than in your upper-levels. You rely on your TA more than your professor, actually," said Eric Kuusisto, senior civil engineering major.

However, Brown and other members working with the University said they are optimistic that they will not have to make the ten percent cuts and that by the time session starts in January, financial conditions will be better than they are now.


Vision 2020

To continue on the path of achieving the goals Vision 2020 has outlined, the University created a focused mission for 2011-2015.

The preliminary mission statement of 2011-2015 reads, "Texas A&M University contributes to society by being both a selective, top-tier research university and renowned service-oriented university serving the public good of the State and the Nation."

Although the economy is suffering, administration officials said they were striving to stay on track to attain the goals expressed by Vision 2020.

"We will continue to have Vision 2020's goals in front of us. I am planning on having a large group of faculty students and staff work with me over the next nine months to examine some of the approaches," Loftin said.

The Executive Budget Summary for the fiscal year 2012, beginning in September, outlined the budget for the University and listed goals to help the stay on track for the future. Loftin created new guiding principles to help Texas A&M move forward toward Vision 2020.

Finally, Loftin said decisions must consider the restricted revenue streams that are characteristic of a comprehensive, land-grant flagship university.

"I am hoping we will not lose our momentum at all. I think we will have the opportunity to redeploy some of the money that we are going to save across the University into very focused areas," he said.

 

Funding A&M
Fund groups included in the Texas A&M University annual operating budget:

Education & General

  • Appropriated sources of revenue
  • General revenue
  • State minimum tuition and lab fees
  • Available university fund distribution

Designated funds

  • Accounts designated for a specific purpose by the Board of Regents
  • Serve an educational purpose such as field trips, computer access fees, seminar fees or service departments
  • Purpose is not restricted by an outside source

Auxiliary enterprise accounts
Provide services to students, staff, faculty and the general public. Must be self-supporting.

  • Dining Services
  • Transportation Services
  • Recreational Sports
  • Student Center
  • Residence halls
  • A.P. Beutel Health Center
  • Athletics
  • Airport, golf course, sports camps

Restricted funds

  • Restricted to a specific purpose by donors from outside A&M
  • Scholarships and fellowships
  • Research gifts, grants and contracts
  • Gifts from corporations or individuals

 

2012 Reduction Template PDF File
 

Open publication - Free publishing - More the newspaper

Comments

Be the first to comment on this article!

Click here to leave a comment
View full site