TTU may face $3.8 million budget cut

Tennessee Tech University announced today that under the "no new revenue" budget plan requested by the Tennessee Board of Regents, TTU would lose $3.8 million from its budget next year.

In response, TTU officials say they may have to take the following steps to balance the budget in the coming fiscal year:

  • eliminate up to 75 full-time positions;
  • reduce programs in the university’s three engineering-related Centers of Excellence;
  • and cut campus maintenance budgets by almost $400,000.

"These cuts will definitely be felt across campus," said TTU President Bob Bell. "The impact is greater than it first appears because this reduction comes after far too many years of diminished or continuation budgets in higher education.

"We can’t ‘seamlessly’ absorb any more cuts," he added. "For years we have tried to shelter our students and personnel from the direct impact of previous cuts by reducing operating costs and slowly stripping away funding for critical programs. But if the ‘no new revenue’ plan passes, we will be forced to eliminate positions. Jobs will be lost, fewer classes will be taught, fewer homes will be bought, and the impact will ripple out from there."

In the plan it submitted to TBR earlier this week, TTU proposed eliminating 38 faculty positions, 16 administrative jobs, 13 clerical and support jobs, and eight positions in its Centers of Excellence. But TTU officials asked to reserve the right to change its list pending the outcome of several campus and state-level committees already actively reviewing budget cut recommendations, including the elimination or reduction of low-producing programs (those with relatively few graduates each year).

In hearings today before the House Finance Committee on the "no new taxes" state budget, Chancellor Charles Manning of the Tennessee Board of Regents said that further reductions in state spending for higher education will only intensify the downward spiral in which Tennessee finds itself.

"A recent study identified Tennessee’s income gap between the rich and the middle class as the widest in the nation, and Tennessee now ranks sixth in the country in terms of income inequality between the state’s wealthiest and poorest families," Manning said. "This is attributed by some economists to the state’s low percentage of people with college degrees. Tennessee now ranks 43rd in the nation in percentage of adults with a bachelors degree or higher, and we just lost one-half of a percentage point compared to the rest of the country. We are told over and over by economists that the future belongs to the educated and the skilled. Yet the funding problems for higher education in Tennessee worsen every year and this is by no means a one-year problem. While our schools can manage the situation, Tennessee will pay a heavy price."

The combined "no new revenue" budget plans of all TBR institutions would result in freezing or eliminating a minimum of 903 full-time and 719 part-time positions, many of them adjunct faculty members.

"This would mean that some students who want to attend will not be admitted, some will not be able to get the courses they need to graduate, so it will take them longer to complete their degrees, some laid-off workers will not be able to get the skills training they need to compete for new jobs," said Manning.

Four TBR institutions were represented at today’s hearings, and their plans to deal with a worst case scenario include eliminating or freezing faculty and staff positions, increasing class sizes, reducing class sections, cutting back student services and scholarships, and limiting needed building maintenance. Also at risk are high demand programs at Tennessee Technology Centers such as nursing and retraining for workers affected by factory closings.

According to Manning, "While the state is not closing higher education as it did the parks, we are certainly restricting the number of people we can serve and making it more expensive for those who do get in. If the legislature is not able to solve higher education’s funding problem, and we must make the $56 million in cuts contemplated by the "no new taxes" state budget, it is likely that the Board of Regents will be forced once again to increase tuition to mitigate some of these cuts."

TBR institutions have requested tuition increases ranging from 16% to 31%, and the board will act on those requests once the legislature has passed a budget for fiscal year 2002-2003, which begins July 1.

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