published Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Tennessee: UT layoffs postponed, not avoided

UT President Jan Simek said layoffs within the UT system will be postponed thanks to the stimulus aid coming to higher education, but they will not be avoided.

Gov. Phil Bredesen on Monday announced that $100 million in federal stimulus money will be pumped into state colleges this year, and Dr. Simek said the money will re-establish the UT system at it 2008 budget levels.

The system also will receive $185 million in stimulus money for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

TUITION HIKES

Since the UT system will be receiving $100 million in federal stimulus aid this year, UTC officials said both Gov. Phil Bredesen and the state Legislature will be putting pressure on higher education leaders to keep tuition low. UTC Chancellor Roger Brown has pushed for a 9 percent tuition increase at the school. However, officials say implementing the tuition hikes recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission are more likely. THEC recommends a 7 percent tuition increase at UTC.

“This is a good outcome for the years ahead,” he said Tuesday in a Web conference.

However, he said the stimulus money is not permanent and the UT system is still tasked with cutting $66 million in the next two years.

“We have time to reflect, plan and transition to a much leaner budget process,” said Dr. Simek.

Pedro Campa, faculty Senate president at UTC, said an injection of federal funding into the UT system will help college administrators and professors think more strategically about cuts, but he said faculty and staff believe layoffs and academic program cuts are inevitable.

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“(The money) is not going to save us, but it certainly gives us time to breath, which I think is very good,” he said.

Dr. Simek said he hopes some layoffs will be avoided as people leave jobs and retire in the next two years.

While UT will work to provide the classes students need to graduate over the next two years, system leaders still will look at cutting programs and administration, he said.

“We will use the next two years to thoughtfully plan,” said Dr. Simek.

Dr. Campa said the real question is how stimulus aid will influence the politics of tuition increases this year. Without a significant increase in tuition, schools such as UTC may we worse off in the long run, he said.

“Just because we are going to have a reprieve doesn’t mean this reprieve will be forever,” 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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