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Last week Governor Perry signed HB1, approving a two-year budget that spends $15 billion less than the last budget cycle.
The severe deficit in the State of Texas means that the UTB/TSC Partnership budget will be reduced by more than $16 million over the next two years, or a total of 17% of our state appropriations. This is occurring at the same time that enrollment has increased by more than 8% during the last academic year.
This is the first time in the 20-year history of the UTB/TSC Partnership that we have had to endure cuts of this magnitude in state funding. And of course, we are not alone in having to take such drastic measures. Every university in the state is facing the same challenge.
The budget deficit in the State of Texas has been predicted for more than a year. In anticipation of the severe nature of these reductions and as part of our ever-continuing effort to improve efficiency, we began campus-wide cost reduction and revenue generation discussions in fall 2009. In addition, we left vacant many positions as they surfaced during the year and offered voluntary separation incentives for employees who were eligible for early retirement. We reduced all categories of expenditures and searched for more efficient and more economical ways of providing vital services to our students. The idea was that every dollar we saved this year would make next year’s reductions a bit easier to handle.
We also increased the minimum number of students required to offer a class for both undergraduate and graduate classes, reduced the number of non-teaching assignments for faculty and began the process of eliminating programs that had dropped in enrollment in order to grow programs in high demand like those in the newly established College of Nursing and College of Bioscience and Health Professions. We increased options for students by adding compressed course offerings between the traditional semesters and continued to increase our on-line course offerings.
In spite of all of the cost-cutting measures that we identified, we are still faced with the need to reduce our operating expenses in order to keep tuition and fees affordable and to continue to offer the full range of classes and services needed by our students to complete their degrees. Tuition and fees at UTB/TSC remain among the lowest in the state and a mere one-third of the cost when compared with other institutions, both within and outside The University of Texas System.
But a 17% reduction in our funding totaling $16 million over the next two years coupled with an average 8% increase in enrollment requires even more budgetary cuts. Our preliminary estimates this spring were that we would have to eliminate 150 jobs. We left vacant 57 positions during the year when employees resigned or voluntarily retired. We also were able to retain 19 positions by identifying alternative non-state funding sources of revenue. However, that is still not enough to avoid a reduction in force.
This week, regretfully, we will be notifying 34 current employees that after Aug. 31 of this year, their jobs will no longer be funded. Our hearts go out to these members of our UTB/TSC community and their extended families. These are difficult times, and we share in this terrible loss. Every effort will be made to help each employee who is affected by the reduction in force by providing special training and preparation for transitioning to the next job, as well as counseling to help cope with the change.
In making the decisions about the positions that would be reduced, we adhered to the strict and disciplined process prescribed by The University of Texas System and our own policies.
Every division on campus will be affected by the budget cuts. Great care was taken to ensure that students’ instruction would not be interrupted, therefore no fulltime faculty positions were subject to the reduction in force. We also attempted to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, impacts on support services to students.
We must emerge from this difficult time more resolved than ever to grow our university in a way that is even more innovative and more resilient in the future. There is no more powerful economic driver in a region than an educated population.
The growth and success of UT Brownsville and Texas Southmost College are tied inextricably to the prosperity of our region. What hurts either of them will have a severe impact on the future prosperity of our region. Your continued support for the work of our college and of our university is needed now more than ever to ensure that every child with ambitions of going to college fulfills that dream.