State Department of Higher Education official speaks at Academic Hall about how state budget affects Southeast

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When state universities plugged federal stabilization money into their budgets, they prolonged dealing with severe budget deficits.

"We are not going to grow our way out of this problem," said Paul Wagner, deputy commissioner of the Department of Higher Education.

Wagner talked to Southeast Missouri State University faculty and staff Wednesday about the condition of the state budget and how it will affect the university. He will give another presentation at the board of regents meeting at 12:30 p.m. today in the Glenn Convocation Center.

The university is planning how it will deal with the lack of stabilization money. Wagner said federal stabilization funds are propping up state spending but the economy will not grow enough by the time the funds are no longer there.

"At this point, we're going to have to deal with this structural imbalance we've had for a long time," he said, during his presentation at Academic Hall auditorium.

Wagner has talked at other universities across the state. Many concerns focus on meeting the growing need for higher education with fewer resources, he said.

"I think the thing faculty are concerned about is how are we going to do our jobs," he said.

Southeast's $96.9 million budget includes $5.36 million in stabilization funds. Because of the way state allocates funding for higher education, Wagner said Southeast will not receive more state money based on its recent growth. The university, he said, will benefit from a broad mission based on meeting the needs of the region.

"What I see is flexibility and responsiveness in this institution," he said.

Southeast is cutting its budget and finding ways to boost revenue over the next two years. Budget review subcommittees and university divisions were charged with cutting $7.76 million. During today's meeting, regents will hear about plans to cut costs and increase revenue in areas like athletics, scholarship and program fees.

Eight budget review subcommittees were charged with cutting $2 million. They will outline $1.02 million during today's meeting but will continue reviewing areas like academics.

A 5 percent cut across university divisions identified $3.99 million, including 24 staff positions and 15.25 faculty positions.

New program fees, identified by a budget subcommittee, could generate between $164,234 and $525,687 by instituting fees for high-cost programs like computer science, athletic training and nursing. A change in a scholarship that caters mostly to Illinois residents would save the university $391,110 over the next two years.

Increasing common fees such as application, nonresident incidental and late fees on inactive accounts would generate revenue. Raising incidental fees for nonresident students by 2.7 percent would bring in about $195,000. The undergraduate fee is currently $339.90 per credit hour.

Last year Gov. Jay Nixon made an agreement with public university presidents to cut higher education funding by 5.2 percent if they did not increase tuition for in state students.

Because the of stipulations regarding stabilization funds, Wagner said, the state legislature could cut higher education funding by up to 7.2 percent, which would leave state universities open to raising fees.

Southeast is also reviewing academic programs as it proceeds with its budget review. The process will conclude in the fall, Southeast president Dr. Ken Dobbins said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

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One University Plaza Cape Girardeau, MO

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