published Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

University of Tennessee official discuss more possible cuts

Audio clip

Brittany Justice

In another round of talks about budget cuts and cost savings, UT board of trustees members discussed increasing tuition costs for full-time students and implementing employee furloughs.

Yet students and faculty at UTC, already concerned about rising tuition costs and the possibility of academic program cuts, said a suggestion to eliminate the 12-hour tuition cap and forcing employees to take unpaid time off will impose a serious financial burden on families tied to the university. The tuition cap allows students, once they’ve enrolled for 12 hours, to take any other classes for free.

“I think before we do that we should get rid of a lot of administrators,” said Pedro Campa, faculty senate president at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “I am sure that we are top heavy.”

Ways to cut discussed:

* Reduce printing and mailing and increase electronic media

* Energy conservation

* Employee extra service, compensation and overtime

* A review of the academic calendar

* Reduce travel with more videoconferencing

* Hiring retirees

* Streamlining General Education

* Improving the performance management system

* Investing in distance learning

* Reviewing and renegotiating contracts

* Outsourcing services

Source: UT System

The University of Tennessee system is preparing to cut $66 million from its more than $1 billion budget for fiscal year 2010. If the state’s economic condition worsens in the coming months, another $25 million could be cut, officials have said.

UTC is preparing to trim more than $6 million from its budget, and officials still are working to identify specific areas of the university where funding can be reduced.

Officials with the UT board of trustees have collected more than 600 cost-saving ideas from faculty and staff on all campuses. Gina Stafford, a spokeswoman for the UT system, said 11 categories were reviewed at Monday’s meeting of the efficiency and effectiveness committee.

No cuts were decided upon at the meeting, but UT President John Petersen said the discussion will prepare officials for Gov. Phil Bredesen’s budget, which will be announced in coming months.

“This is an opportunity to reposition and readjust what we’re going to do as an institution and going forward how we can help ourselves become more efficient and more focused on our core values of what it is we do,” Dr. Petersen said.

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The Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s two-year college system, voted to allow employee furloughs and eliminate the 12-hour tuition cap in December.

Brittany Justice, a sophomore at UTC who’s majoring in business administration, took 15 hours this semester and has taken 16 hours every semester she has been enrolled at UTC. She said eliminating the tuition cap will punish students who try to take more than 12 hours per semester, and, in many cases, cause students to delay graduation. UTC requires 120 hours to graduate.

“It would make it more difficult for students who are already having trouble paying for college,” she said. “I am not in favor of this at all. Students will have to work more (to pay for more classes) while they are trying to balance course work.”

Tyler Forrest, a UTC student and student member of the UT board of trustees, said he understands why officials are considering a change to the fee structure.

The average student takes 13.3 hours per semester, and with UTC charging $443 per hour, the school could make a lot of money by changing the policy, he said.

Additional funds could keep some academic programs from being cut, said Mr. Forrest.

“It will be a little more expensive, but things are going to get more expensive either way,” he said.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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