Benson Addresses State of the University, Budgets at Campus Wide ForumJanuary 15, 2009
President Benson started his State of the University address to the campus on Wednesday afternoon with some good news about the school, but then finished on a somber note in previewing what kinds of additional budget cuts are likely forthcoming from the state legislature in the coming weeks.
He led off his remarks by highlighting the fact that student retention is up by 16 percent and enrollment will also be up this spring semester at SUU. He also talked about recent faculty achievements, a new testing center nearing completion and about advancement efforts that are proving successful in raising private money for the University. However, the more than 400 employees in attendance showed up in the ballroom on Wednesday afternoon to hear about the effects of more one-time and ongoing budget cuts and their impact campus wide.
According to the president, the legislature and governor are still wrestling over whether there will be an additional 7.5 percent cut to the current 2009 fiscal year. This cut to one-time money would bring a strict limit to operating expenses, suspend all non-critical expenditures, and would limit hiring to a very tight case-by-case approval process.
The larger 15 percent cut being debated by legislators would chop the University’s ongoing budget for the 2010 fiscal year and would be much more damaging. President Benson said that these kinds of cuts would mean the potential loss of 50-55 full-time equivalent positions. The president is still hoping to mitigate those numbers with some special incentives for early retirement and retirement packages.
These cuts could also include a reduction of operating budgets by 15 percent, a cut to hourly wage budgets up to 30 percent, a reduction of adjunct faculty budgets and the potential elimination of various programs around campus.
President Benson also pointed out that to this point, SUU’s budget cuts have been spread across campus proportionately, with everyone taking an equal share. He then stated that a continuation of that may not be possible as administrators try to preserve and protect the academic areas and instruction of students. To this end, the president has said every effort will be made with these deeper cuts to protect the core mission of the University by using some reserve funds to offset the cuts to the academic budgets of the institution.