College prepares for budget cuts

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September 30, 2008

1:25 AM

The Writing Center might not survive the year thanks to statewide budget cuts.

The College of William and Mary has been ordered by the state to trim 5 percent off its budget over the next 30 days because of slow economic growth in Virginia.

In response, the School of Arts and Sciences cut $102,437 from maintenance and operations expenditures, non-essential funds that cover supplies and programs for faculty and students — a flat 8 percent from each department.

The Writing Center, which offers free individualized tutoring sessions with trained students, lost $1,248 in funding for the year.

“Right now, with the raise in the minimum wage and the 8 percent budget cut, we will not be able to stay open through the end of spring semester,” Writing Center Director Sharon Zuber said.

According to Dean of Arts and Sciences Carl Strikwerda, additional funding is unlikely to be allocated to school programs.

“Because Arts and Sciences had to absorb a substantial base budget cut … my office’s ability to provide any additional funds to departments and programs during the current academic year is extremely limited,” Strikwerda wrote in an e-mail to the faculty.

Many departments are already making cuts in anticipation of a major financial crunch. English department chair Jack Martin is currently curtailing photocopier use and promoting scanning and posting documents to Blackboard.

“Please try to go paperless as much as possible,” Martin wrote in an e-mail to the English department. “Or we may stop ordering [paper].”

Other cuts already made have included limiting department funds for postage and phone line use, as well as cutting funding for professors to travel to conferences, Martin said.

The College was also required to submit a plan Friday to Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for additional budget cuts of 5, 10 and 15 percent. In an e-mail to students, College President Taylor Reveley said this could range anywhere from $2.45 million to $7.35 million.

“The governor has made it clear he would like to see plans, especially [those] that don’t increase tuition or reduce financial aid,” state spokesman Gordon Hickey said.

However, economics professor Robert Archibald sees a mid-year tuition increase as a feasible possibility.
“We did that once, and that’s an option,” Archibald said. “If the budget cut is very large, that’s clearly something the administration has to consider because there’s no way to [respond] otherwise without really gutting the academic program.”

Archibald said there was not a significant reaction in enrollment the last time the school instituted a tuition raise.

When the state faced budget cuts of nearly $1.7 billion last year due to shortfalls in revenue predictions, Kaine pledged not to touch schools and universities.

But when it became apparent that more than $2 billion would still need to be cut, he spread budget restrictions to all state agencies.

As a result, the state cut the College’s budget by 6.25 percent, which amounted to approximately $3 million, last year.

“I think it’s virtually certain that we’re going to take some kind of additional cut, we just have no idea right now how big it’s going to be,” Strikwerda said. “The question right now is whether the state itself is going to absorb some of the cut … and how much they’re going to push down to colleges, universities and other agencies.”

The Board of Visitors met last week to discuss developing a plan to deal with financial cuts. Reveley said a long-term financial solution will depend on planning, finances and communication.

Archibald said a more privatized approach to funding is necessary for the well-being of the College.

“The state is not a very reliable partner in providing funding,” he said. “The College of William and Mary ought to think seriously about trying to minimize the impact of [state budget cuts], which means replacing state funds with private funds.”

Vice President for Finance Sam Jones could not be reached for comment.

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