Massive budget cuts have far-reaching implications for students & faculty
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 22:09
After absorbing a massive 15.8 percent budget cut in state funding this year, UNCW's list of casualties includes 24/7 library hours, research grants, more than 16,000 classroom seats and the independent status of UNCW's Department of Physics.
Facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall this year, the North Carolina General Assembly cut $414 million from the UNC system budget for 2011-2012, resulting in $16.6 million lost from UNCW's annual budget. While next semester's academic allocations are still "relatively unknown," according to Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Charles Maimone, this semester's cuts have resulted in many significant changes across campus, some more visible than others.
For one, 478 fewer jobs are now available at UNCW, a tough pill to swallow for a city already saddled with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate. Worth noting, most of these are not full-time jobs, but largely temporary employment, student employees, adjunct faculty or others who were previously employed but can no longer be hired as a result of the state budget reductions. Of the total 147 full-time positions to get the axe, 78 full-time faculty positions have been eliminated, though campus administrators have left many of those positions vacant over the last year in anticipation of the cuts, resulting in the layoffs of eight full-time faculty.
Perhaps more visible to students is the total of 558 fewer classes that will be offered this year, equaling 16,069 fewer seats available. According to Maimone, the university is for now focusing on the academic needs of freshmen and seniors, the intention being to allow incoming students as many options as possible when starting their college careers, while also helping seniors to be able to secure classes required for graduation. Maimone also said that the administration has asked departments to increase flexibility in substituting classes so students may use certain credits in place of required classes, which tend to fill up faster. To students worried that four-year programs will now take five years to complete, Maimone added that they would "do almost anything [they] can to make sure that doesn't happen."
Across the university's academic departments, course offerings have shrunk and average class sizes grown, creating more difficulties for students registering for needed classes and putting added strain on teachers who are being asked to teach more classes filled with more students. In all, $4.6 million was slashed from the personnel budget for the College of Arts and Sciences, with Cameron School of Business, the Watson School of Education, and the College of Health and Human Services suffering similarly with cuts of more than $1.1 million, $693,000, and $519,000, respectively. With increased course loads and average students per class, professors will also likely find it more difficult to allocate time for research.
In addition, many campus services are also feeling the crunch. Returning students have likely noticed curtailed library hours from last year, with Randall Library open only until 2 a.m., opposed to the previous 24/7 weekday schedule. The library lost more than $1 million in funding, including the loss of four librarian positions. More than $302,000 was eliminated from Student Support services, which includes access to the University Learning Center, the counseling center, and career services. IT Support, which covers the TAC, employment for graduate assistants, and technology equipment repair and replacement in classrooms, lost more than half of a million dollars.
Budget Department forced to cut faculty positions as a last resort
University officials have been faced with a difficult job, and many have been lengthening their workdays in order to coordinate planning on the cuts and where they should be made. Maimone said that over the last year, senior administrators have been meeting weekly in the early morning to develop plans to deal with a round of budget cuts previously expected to hit 15 percent only as a "worst case scenario." In designing the reduced budget for UNCW's 2011-2012 fiscal year, budget planners scoured the administrative budgets for ways to save money, holding off on academic positions to be cut as a last resort.
For their part in ensuring minimal job loss and transitioning faculty into other positions, UNCW's Office of Human Resources was honored with an Excellence in Human Resources Practices award at the annual College and University Professional Association for Human Resources conference last year. Maimone also pointed out that in terms of annual budget allocations, UNCW is second only to ASU in the ratio of administrators to faculty within the UNC system. And because UNCW runs so efficiently, finding areas of the budget outside of the academic departments to scale back has often proven to be a full-time job in itself.