Tight budget creating undesired position for U staff, students

Latasha Webb

As the University adjusts to a smaller-than-desired budget, students and faculty can expect to feel the repercussions of a fiscally tightened belt.

Last week the state Legislature’s Higher Education Conference Committee allocated $90 million in increased funding to the University – the University requested a $221 million increase.

University officials predict student tuition will increase 10 percent to 14 percent. Thus, in-state undergraduates taking 15 credits a semester can expect a minimum increase of $440.10 per semester, and out-of-state students can expect an increase of $1,298.70 per semester.

“We will put substantial additional dollars into scholarships, and Pell Grants are going up,” said University President Mark Yudof.

University officials were relieved because the allocation was more than previously expected, but the amount will still have the University looking for additional funding wherever possible.

During the last four years, the University has cut $33.1 million in administrative costs. Yudof said he plans to cut an additional $30 million more in expenditures and administrative costs.

Undergraduate programs, health care premiums, and faculty salaries are just a few areas where the University will feel the budget belt tighten.

“Every member of the Legislature was aware of the consequences of funding under $138 million,” Yudof said. He added health insurance and a 3 percent faculty raise will cost $120 million during the next two years.

Yudof also said the University will continue focusing on improving undergraduate education, but will have to forego all new programs, reduce faculty raises and renegotiate health care insurance for employees.

The University’s Board of Regents will meet Thursday and Friday with Yudof to consider changes in health care benefits for University employees.

The University will also consider a hiring and salary freeze, but Yudof said he was concerned University stagnation would render the institution uncompetitive. A hiring/salary freeze would allow other institutions to steal University faculty with more tempting facilities and employee packages.

University faculty currently produce one and a half times their salary in research grants each year but are paid approximately $10,000 less than those at other public universities such as the University of Michigan and the University of California-Berkeley.

Yudof said he advocated the University’s cause to the Legislature to “the limit of my ability.”

He added his condolences to students and those who will be unable to return next semester because of increased tuition.

“This will cause great pain to our students,” Yudof said, “and for this I am genuinely sorry.”

Latasha Webb welcomes comments at [email protected]