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Funding cuts "sobering," says Rawlins, but UNT is prepared to survive

Feb. 22, 2011

RAwlinsDear UNT faculty and staff members,

On Thursday, I presented to the UNT System Board of Regents an overview of what UNT's budget might look like based on what we know about the state cuts. It is a sobering picture and I wanted to share it with you to keep you informed about our budget situation. 

As I shared with you last month, we will see many different projections of higher education cuts during the legislative session. We are still hopeful that lawmakers will minimize the impacts to higher education because a college education is important to the progress and well-being of both individuals and society. But, now that both the House and the Senate have drafted budgets, we know that we could be facing anywhere from $4 million to $10 million in state funding cuts for the 2011-12 fiscal year. These cuts will compound the funding reductions already made by the state in the last two years. 

Because we know that reductions are coming, we are reducing our base budget by 5 percent, relying on the priorities submitted by deans and vice presidents during the recent budget hearings. We will certainly be able to add some revenue to that base because of growth, and those additions will be allocated according to the proposals made in those hearings. But, the budget will squeeze us at a time when we have more students to educate and when many of our research initiatives are beginning to show returns.

Last week I made presentations to the Senate and House appropriations committees and to our Board of Regents. In those, I provided considerable detail on our budget and indicated that the reductions we are making because of state cuts would lead to

  • Crowding of classes and facilities
  • Reduced faculty/student ratios
  • Reduced work force by approximately 50-60 administrator and staff positions through attrition
  • Reduced faculty positions by approximately 50 through attrition
  • Reduced counseling, mentoring, and health and safety support for students

I know the top concern for many of you is how the budget cuts will affect your work here at UNT. As of now, we expect to be able to weather the worst-case scenario cuts by using salary savings from positions frozen during the past few months, leaving other positions vacant, and taking other cost-saving measures. I will do all that I can to avoid layoffs based on budget reductions because I know that people are our greatest resource. But we will all be called on to do even more with less.

The good news is that we are estimating approximately $7 million in additional revenue for 2011-12, assuming a 3 percent enrollment increase and a previously approved tuition and fee increase. This additional revenue allows us to only recover some of the state cuts and possibly maintain ground.

But to continue our momentum and support our growth, we need additional revenue. We are looking at how that can be done.

Our priorities in both cutting and rebuilding the budget are to:

  • Protect the quality of instruction and the integrity of UNT degrees. We are among the best at giving students of all backgrounds a high-quality education and at supporting the state by educating so many young Texans.
  • Protect our excellence, especially in areas where we might not be able to recover ground lost to budget cuts. We have made significant progress in growing in new ways while retaining our core strengths.
  • Take care of and protect our faculty and staff.

These are tough times and there will be sacrifices and hardships. But UNT has been preparing for these challenges by being fiscally prudent and doing careful planning. We are as committed as ever to our maintaining our momentum to becoming a stronger, more recognized research university. This may slow us down a bit, but I know we will make it through this tough time with our mission intact and our future as bright as ever.

Sincerely,
V. Lane Rawlins
President

Posted on: Tue 22 February 2011