Regents to discuss budget cuts, layoffs, tuition hikes

Kari Petrie

The University Board of Regents will get its first glimpse today at how the state’s budget crisis might impact the institution for the next two years.

Because of an estimated $4.35 billion state deficit, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a $185 million funding reduction last month for the University’s 2004-05 operating budgets. Pawlenty also cut $25 million last month from this year’s budget.

University President Robert Bruininks said he will present four strategies to combat the funding reductions.

“We are looking at everything we possibly can use to save the University money over the next two years,” Bruininks said.

Bruininks said administrative and operating cost reductions will be discussed. These cuts might include cutting back on software purchases and reducing the use of heating fuel. Bruininks also said publishing course guides only online could save the University $100,000.

“(Administrative and operating costs) will be a very major emphasis in putting this budget together for the next two years,” Bruininks said.

The regents will also discuss moving investment funds to cover academic and service budget cuts. They will also look at focusing reductions on areas that receive a majority of state funding, he said.

Bruininks said increased revenue through double-digit tuition hikes and other revenues are also discussion topics.

Provost Christine Maziar and Vice Provost Craig Swan will talk about managing the University’s enrollment.

Their presentation outlines 10 principles to guide the institution’s enrollment policies involving course access and creating a diverse campus.

“We’ve got a balancing act here on a range of dimensions,” Swan said.

Swan said applications to the University are up approximately 20 percent. However, current budget issues do not allow for an increase in enrollment.

“We would have serious problems with course access (if enrollment increases) and that wouldn’t serve the students well,” Swan said.

Maziar said the principles are in place to protect student interests.

“We are really working very hard to align our efforts, align our investments and align the goals that we’re establishing with student success,” Maziar said.

Vice President of Human Resources Carol Carrier and General Council Mark Rotenberg are scheduled to present human resource politics and strategies in preparation for funding reductions.

Carrier said maintaining competitive benefit programs and providing a system for pending faculty and staff layoffs will be addressed.

She said online “tool kits” are available for department managers looking to assist in handling layoffs and job search information for those who might lose their jobs.

“We need to help them as individuals as they transition to new things,” Carrier said.

She said it was too early to have specific numbers of faculty and staff who will be laid off, adding that those decisions are made by each department.

Carrier said Rotenberg will inform the regents on employment regulations and contracts, such as union contracts, that must be observed when making human resource decisions.

Kari Petrie welcomes comments at [email protected]