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Published: Friday, 10/22/2004

Regents propose budget increase, flat-funding plan

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Ohio Board of Regents yesterday agreed to ask the state for two drastically different higher education budgets - one that calls for increases of 5.5 percent and 6.8 percent over two years and the other that only would allow for flat funding.

The regents' proposal for flat funding - the most recent higher education fiscal year budget was set at $2.4 billion - was submitted at the request of the state because officials are anticipating a $4 billion deficit going into the next two-year budget.

"A flat budget is not the regents' budget," said Rich Petrick, the regents vice chancellor of finance. "The regents never would have introduced a flat budget."

He added that the regents did not take a position yet on tying a tuition cap to state support, as was originally considered by staff members.

The matter will remain under review in upcoming months and could resurface later this year, Mr. Petrick added.

In their proposals, the regents outlined priorities that would increase funding for financial aid and support for new students. In addition, they are seeking to invest more money in basic research and commercialization as well as workforce development.

In turn, about a dozen programs at public universities across the state would not be funded at all in a flat budget and about seven other areas would face reductions of 15 percent in funding over the next two fiscal years.

The programs would receive slight increases if the regents' budget of 5.5 percent and 6.8 percent increases was funded.

If higher education funding remains flat, two of the programs on the chopping block in northwest Ohio include $110,000 to the Canadian Studies Center at Bowling Green State University and money earmarked for a displaced homemakers program at the University of Toledo.

Additionally, the city of Bowling Green would receive a cutback in its funding for police and fire response in relationship to the university.

Some cuts would occur in an urban university program that's offered at UT and other universities across the state.

Additionally, funding would be decreased to cooperative extension services in Ohio, among other areas.

Regents Chancellor Roderick Chu described the programs slated to be fully slashed or decreased as valued programs that regents had to sacrifice in order to fund other areas.

He said the programs are at larger universities that may be able to help absorb the cuts.

But some local university leaders were displeased by the targeted cuts.

They added that the proposal is still very preliminary and marks the first step in a long budget process, one that will involve Gov. Bob Taft and state legislators.

They also vowed to lobby the regents and others against the decreases.

"Certainly, some of those decisions by the regents' staff impact the University of Toledo," said William Decatur, the university's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We are examining that, and examining the implications."

He said that UT and the other universities that have received the funds will be discussing the matter with the regents.

At BGSU, Professor Mark Kasoff said the decrease to the Canadian Studies Center would mean they no longer would be able to work on strengthening external relationships between the Ohio and Canadian business communities. Instructional programs for students would remain.

"It would be a tragedy. All of our outreach would be eliminated," said Mr. Kasoff, center director.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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