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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2003

Trustees mull cuts in programs at UT

Cutting academic programs ought to be considered as the University of Toledo struggles to fill projected budget gaps for next year, according to one university official.

James Tuschman, a member of the board of trustees, said during a special board meeting yesterday about budget issues that the university needs to change the way it's been operating if it is to survive in the current and future fiscal realities.

State legislators, he said, are telling universities to end the duplication of some programs and channel resources to areas of strength while cutting areas of weakness.

“We have to justify the existence of every program,” Mr. Tuschman said. “They do not have the money. Columbus has said: `Heal thyself.'”

So far, the University of Toledo has sought to avoid trimming instructional programs in dealing with cuts in state support. Instead, it used one-time savings, leaving vacant positions unfilled, for example.

But those funds were intended as a bridge to get the university to better times. Continued reduced revenue combined with increasing costs in salaries, health care, and other areas are projected to exacerbate the problem next year.

“The river is too wide for our bridge,” said William Decatur, vice president for finance and administration.

Even if officials approve a 9.9 percent increase in tuition and fees, UT would have a $6.7 million budget gap next year. A 6 percent increase could leave a gap of $10.1 million.

Those are two of the scenarios anticipated by officials who are preparing initial recommendations to the board later this month for tuition and fee increases. The final numbers could be in flux until the state finalizes its budget, Mr. Decatur said.

As they look to deal with this situation, UT officials must evaluate programs and not hold them harmless when making cuts, Mr. Tuschman said.

“I understand this may take a lot of time, but we don't have a lot of time,” he said.

Because cutting programs would mean cutting tenured faculty through lengthy established processes, this could not be done by the end of June when a budget is due, said Provost Alan Goodridge.

“It's not going to solve our problem right now,” he said.

Other trustees said they agreed with the spirit of Mr. Tuschman's remarks.

Mr. Tuschman said he'd like to see a plan outlining a timeline and process for dealing with the issue.

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