Fears present at USU with looming budget cuts

While the unavoidable injuries that will result from further budget cuts to higher education are being brought to the forefront in the current legislative session, USU students, faculty and staff are preparing for what is to come. “There is still some hesitation to fund higher education to an extent,” said Neil Abercrombie, USU’s director of government relations, who will work directly with legislators until the cuts are finalized. “We still need to make our case.” Legislators proposed another 7 percent cut from all Utah public higher education institution budgets, however, it was proposed that technical schools only be cut by 5.9 percent. The definite percentages cannot be finalized until the state budget is prepared. “We won’t know the answer until mid-February when the legislature gets updated numbers to see where state revenue is. Then the question will be how do we restore the 7 percent,” Abercrombie said. No matter what amount Utah legislature decides to cut from higher education, there will be noticeable consequences considering budget cuts that have been implemented throughout previous recession years, said Brent Crosby, ASUSU executive vice president. “We are down to the bare bones. We can’t have as many teachers teaching and we can’t have as much research,” Crosby said. “We have huge research money coming in and less faculty means less research money.” Crosby has been discussing potential concerns with college deans and said in his conversation with Caine College of the Arts Dean Craig Jessop, Jessop said higher education needs the arts and the legislature is quick to think it’s not important. Since the beginning of the recession, 17 percent of the arts budget has been cut. Crosby said in his conversation with Jessop they discussed the possibility of programs becoming smaller, such as music therapy, which means allowing fewer students into the program. Jessop said, “I have tremendous faith in President Albrecht and his staff. They have been magnificent through all of this and I have great trust in their wisdom and ability to manage these situations.” The arts school continues to receive generous support form donors and members of the community, Jessop said, so he is confident the strength of the programs will be “preserved.” “I’m an optimist at heart,” he said. “We will make it through these times.” Charlie Heunemann, associate dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said he along with other faculty and staff in the college are proactively mapping out multiple scenarios that may result from budget cuts. Undoubtedly, programs will close, departments will have fewer course offerings and large class sizes.

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