Southeastern faces $13 million in budget cuts

Southeastern’s budget will face one of the largest cuts since 2008, due in large part to the cuts made to the state operating budget passed by state legislators.

President John L. Crain and the university have made a plan to make up for the shortfall of nearly $13 million, including a $9.1 million reduction from state funds. However, other expectations are driving the budget cut total even higher.

A decline in enrollment, according to Crain, will account for another $2.5 million, citing increased admissions standards as well as an increase in tuition as major factors. Insurance premiums and retirement fund contributions that are paid by the university will cost nearly $750,000. Also, under next year’s GRAD Act provisions, there will be an increase in tuition, thereby raising the cost of certain scholarships and waivers, in all totaling $600,000.

“In any case, after all of these factors are taken into account, we must budget about $13 million less in expenditures in the new fiscal year than when we started the 2011-12 fiscal year,” stated Crain. “While this is obviously a significant budget reduction, the true magnitude is even more apparent when the cumulative amount of reduction in our state funds is considered. Since the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year, our state funds have been reduced by almost $40 million – essentially cut in half.”

The budget plan laid out by Crain that meets the $13 million shortfall is as follows:

– Eliminating funds from the operating budget for approximately 80 faculty and staff positions, including vacant positions and a modest number of filled positions transferred to other funding sources – $4.4 million.

– Reduction of utilities and related costs in the operating budget, including additional energy efficiencies, additional costs recovered through the utility surcharge student fee, and operating fund savings in the annual payment of energy services lease – $2.4 million.

– Recovery of grant indirect dollars from restricted funds to the operating fund – $1.3 million.

– Operating/restricted fund swaps supporting instruction-related activities in academic departments, library acquisitions, student-related software maintenance, etc.; reductions in operating/restricted funds transfers, including athletics; and offsetting a reduction in operating funds for student scholarships with additional Southeastern Foundation funds – $3 million.

– Instructional workload adjustments resulting in the elimination of 13 instructor positions and various part-time faculty positions with reassignment of course sections to other faculty – $700,000.

– Staff (classified and unclassified) layoffs affecting 23 employees – $1.2 million.

Crain spoke with a group of students who hold various leadership positions on campus on Thursday, July 19 to inform them of the budget cuts and the plan that will be implemented. It was also an opportunity for those students to ask questions to the president himself.

One question asked was about the elimination of the 13 instructor and various part-time faculty positions along with the reassignment of the courses to other faculty.

The positions in question would be spread throughout each department and factors such as performance, evaluations and critical positions held by faculty members would be considered. However, any instructor that has an increased course load would not receive additional pay.

Crain addressed the fact that, though difficult as it may be, faculty and staff layoffs were necessary to balance the budget.

“I am also very disappointed that we must resort to layoffs and workload increases,” stated Crain. “I especially regret the negative impact layoffs have on the lives of our colleagues, but unfortunately, the cumulative magnitude of reductions in state support and the reality that it is unlikely state support will increase in the foreseeable future leave us no choice. I am firmly convinced the prudent course is to right-size our operational footprint to be more consistent with our reduced resources.”

This is the latest cut in state funding to Southeastern’s overall operating budget, which has decreased in size from $127.6 million to $107.8 million since 2008-09. And from 2008 until now, state funds allocated to higher education have been cut by $420 million, according to The Advocate.

During his meeting with the student leaders, Crain did mention the possibility of a mid year cut, with an amount uncertain.

With the numerous cuts already made to Southeastern’s budget, as Crain states, “There is no doubt that this has been the most complicated and difficult budget reduction with which I have been involved in my 26-year career in higher education.”