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Purdue’s reason for cutting communications budgets

We’ve called out Purdue University recently for its approach to communications consolidation and while the effort began about 18 months ago, yesterday’s news from Indiana might spur additional reductions  The state wants $150 million in additional budget cuts from its public universities by early January 2010. That’s right…less than a month from now.  Talk about ruining your holiday break!

Ridiculous, I know, but as the story below indicates, the state is serious about the cuts, regardless of the pain and suffering.  Purdue is a big university, but its proportional share of a $150 million cut would be about $38.25 million…by January 8.  We should all count our blessings that we’re in North Carolina and at NC State University.

As far as the story from Indiana goes, it’s interesting that the media focuses on athletic cuts.  Never mind that entire programs and majors may be forced to go away.  How about the elimination of a college or two while you’re at it.

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Universities might cut sports, majors

7 state colleges have until the end of the month to find $150M in savings

By Dan McFeely

Eliminating a sport or doing away with an academic major are possibilities as Indiana’s seven public universities grapple with ways to find $150 million to trim from their budgets before the end of the year.

Gov. Mitch Daniels asked the state-supported colleges — Indiana, Purdue, Ivy Tech, Indiana State, Ball State, Vincennes and Southern Indiana — to make the reductions after another round of dismal state revenue forecasts.

“We know it’s going to be hard,” said Teresa Lubbers, commissioner for higher education, who has held intense meetings with college leaders and is charged with helping them find ways to trim budgets before the state-imposed deadline of the first week of January.

Database: How much are state employees paid?

Indiana doled out $1.2 billion to the schools this year, which adds up to about 25 percent of all the spending done at the campuses. Other sources of funding include tuition and fees, endowments and athletic revenues.

Cutting $150 million won’t be a simple “divide by seven” process, Lubbers said in an interview.

“That’s not even an option. You would not expect IU or Purdue and the University of Southern Indiana to have the same portion.”

University leaders have been lobbying Lubbers to protect as many of their programs as possible. But even they admit that everything — including athletics — is on the table.

“We evaluate our programs on an annual basis, and we’ve been looking at this whole issue for a couple of years,” said Richard Helton, president of Vincennes University, which eliminated its men’s and women’s swimming program last year because of financial concerns and lack of interest.

Earlier this year, Indiana State eliminated men’s and women’s tennis for financial reasons.

“Revenue from tennis was a fraction of the expense of the sport, especially in terms of scholarship dollars,” said Tara Singer, a vice president of communications at Indiana State, where two-thirds of the athletic budget comes from student fees and the rest from outside sources such as ticket sales. “Men’s basketball is the only program where we generate funds sufficient to cover expenses.”

At Ball State, where the high-profile football program suffered a down year — attendance for home games dropped from 19,201 during last year’s GMAC Bowl run to 10,888 this year — officials say it is too early in the process to speculate on cuts.

“At this point, everything is on the table, and all options will be considered,” said Tony Proudfoot, a vice president for marketing and communications. “The final decision-making process rests with the Ball State board of trustees.”

Meanwhile, bigger schools such as IU and Purdue, who reap big dollars from networks and Big Ten conference revenue-sharing, can more easily protect minor sports.

“Clearly, the big guys like (them), their sports are completely self-subsisting,” said Bernard Hammon, the chief financial officer for the Commission for Higher Education.

That leaves the potential for deep academic cuts.

In 2007, Indiana State made drastic cuts to its academic offerings, lowering the number of courses from 214 to about 150 by eliminating, revising or merging low-demand programs. The university targeted courses that had fewer than 10 students enrolled after a study indicated that each semester there were approximately 5,000 empty seats in general education courses.

Purdue has launched a similar review in West Lafayette.

“The potential cuts are pretty monumental,” said Adam Kline, a senior at Purdue who serves on a special campus committee charged with exploring options. “Nobody is going to want their budget reduced, but this is the situation we are in right now. The most important thing to us as students is maintaining the value of the Purdue degree.”

Purdue has created a Web page for students and faculty to monitor the ongoing discussion. Perhaps as a sign of what may come, Purdue links to other universities, such as Michigan State, which is responding to its state budget crisis by recommending the elimination of several courses of study — including American studies, retailing, environmental geosciences and geological sciences, according to its Web site. At Ivy Tech — the state’s fast-growing community college — the challenges are different. An explosion in student growth that pushed systemwide enrollment to a historic high of 110,000 has forced the college to seek out more faculty to handle larger classes.

Over the past year, the system has hired 90 new full-time faculty members, according to Ivy Tech spokeswoman Kelly Hauflaire.

Lubbers said even with that pressing need, Ivy Tech probably will have to slow down.

“Ivy Tech was trying to move toward a system where they had more full-time professors and fewer adjunct professors,” she said. “The likelihood that they can move as fast as they wanted to in that area seems highly unlikely right now.”

No matter what Ivy Tech or other schools decide, Lubbers predicts much of the savings is likely to come, ultimately, by reduction in staff or in staff salaries and benefits.

“Most of them have accepted that there is not going to be any huge amount of new money in the next budget cycle,” Lubbers said. “In some cases, I think they may postpone things they were talking about doing on behalf of their faculty. But we might also see them renegotiate insurance costs or try to find saving in IT budgets and fuel. They will be looking for things they can do right now.”

Additional Facts Follow the $$

State support of Indiana’s seven public colleges and universities is based on enrollment. Figures show that bigger universities get the lion’s share of money but rely on it less for overall spending; smaller schools get smaller amounts but need it more.

Here is the amount each state-supported school received from the state in 2009-10, total annual spending (2008-09), and the percentage of overall spending that comes from its state appropriation:

» Indiana University (8 campuses); $468.9 million; $2.28 billion; 20.5 percent.

» Purdue University (4 campuses); $324.3 million; $1.59 billion; 20.3 percent.

» Ivy Tech Community College (systemwide); $164.4 million; $437 million; 37.6 percent.

» Indiana State University; $72.4 million; $181 million; 39.9 percent.

» University of Southern Indiana; $39 million; $109 million; 35.7 percent.

» Ball State University; $125.5 million; $379 million; 33.1 percent.

» Vincennes University; $37.4 million; $99 million; 37.5 percent.

Source: Commission for Higher Education


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