Published: Fri Mar 14, 2003Tennessee Tech University might face a $3.87 million cut in state funds if the Tennessee legislature approves the budget plan recommended by Gov. Phil Bredesen last Monday evening.
The cuts are part of Gov. Bredesen's mandate that Tennessee's public higher education institutions, along with most other state agencies, permanently reduce their state appropriations by 9 percent. Bredesen's budget had to address a $780 million shortfall.
"Unfortunately, our students — to whom the financial burden has been shifted in the last few years — will feel the negative impact of these reductions," said TTU President Bob Bell. "But it won't stop there. Every person, group or organization associated with the university will be affected.
"These are deep cuts on top of 12 or more years of little or no budget increases, some of those years with reductions."
The cuts for TTU might mean eliminating up to 33 positions, cutting operations, reducing class sections with low enrollment, closing its indoor Tennis Center, cutting the student yearbook, and depleting most of its marketing funds, among others.
Faced with the largest permanent budget reduction in university history, TTU officials pledged to do what they could to protect the university's academic mission. But the Academic Affairs operations make up about 80 percent of TTU's campus budget, so academic programs felt the largest dollar amount in planned cuts.
"It is impossible to hold anything harmless, given the magnitude of the reduction required," said TBR Chancellor Charles Manning in a press release. "And in addition to the cuts, we are facing increased operating costs next year due to inflation and higher utility prices."
From the $3.87 million required cuts at TTU, campus officials deducted $22,500 already reduced from the Craft Center specialappropriation, $406,800 taken from campus maintenance, and $584,300 already designated to cover anticipated insurance increases. That left $2.86 million in reductions to find.
Academic Affairs proposed to reduce its budget by 5.1 percent (instructional programs cut 4 percent, and non-instructional operations cut 6 percent), or $2.1 million, while all other divisions at the university planned cuts of 10 percent of their base budgets. The Athletics Department would cut $278,228, Business & Fiscal Affairs - $248,596, Student Services - $200,182, University Advancement - $166,270, the President's Office - $95,574, and $50,000 from the university memberships account. The proposed cuts identified about $3.1 million in reductions, and the excess would be used to help cover expected increases in utilities.
Altogether the Tennessee Board of Regents' 45 institutions of higher education will cut more than $57.3 million, with about 58 percent of that money coming from salaries and benefits.
The ramifications of the cuts in the current year as well as these planned for the coming year indicate some kind of student feeincrease may be likely. Just how much of an increase is unclear.
"There is no question that students would feel and see the difference under this scenario," said Manning. "Making up the entire 9 percent reduction by raising tuition is out of the question — it would require increases as high as 15 percent at most universities. But we certainly are looking at the likelihood of tuition increases."
Bell warned that the reductions for TTU may not be finished. Preliminary information from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission indicates that state funding for athletics programs may be in jeopardy in the coming years. If that happens, Bell said, the university's sports programs would face major challenges.