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Published:October 5th, 2007 01:23 EST
UCF May Cut Programs if Budget Worsens

UCF May Cut Programs if Budget Worsens

By Ileana Llorens

A $1.1 billion deficit in Florida`s budget has forced a $15.5 million budget cut on the University of Central Florida. If the state budget continues to worsen, low enrollment programs at the university might be cut, said Provost and Executive Vice President Terry Hickey at a news conference Sept. 4.

Hickey chose not to comment on which programs might be cut, but gave three criteria on which the cuts would be based on: declining enrollment, providing grant and research money for the university, and contributing to the General Education Program.

Lisa Logan, president of the UCF chapter of United Faculty of Florida and English professor, said that union leaders from UFF chapters around Florida have met to discuss the budget crisis. 

We`re all in agreement that existing programs need to be protected, " she said.

Nick Webber, a sophomore environmental engineering major, was also upset with the program-cutting proposal.

They shouldn`t completely cut out smaller programs, " he said. It`s just not fair to [students]. " It prevents students from pursuing what they are passionate about, he added. Students will have to go elsewhere to get the education they need to fulfill their goals.

Eighty percent of the budget is tied up in salaries, Hickey said.

UCF is under a hiring freeze, which puts a halt on hiring advisors and instructors, only hiring faculty to replace vacant positions.      

My goal was to have nobody go, first or last, " Hickey said.

Other states are not having this problem, which results in valuable faculty being cherry picked " by higher salary offers from other universities, Hickey said.

Having the university`s most valuable faculty bought out affects students, Webber said. Students lose the knowledge they would have gained otherwise, and the university loses research money, he added.  
According to Logan, rather than cut existing programs or lay off faculty, UCF should freeze spending on new programs such as the Centers of Excellence, which she estimates costs about $100 million. 

Students are UCF`s main priority in the cut, Hickey said.

Students do come first, " he added. If [students] leave, we all leave shortly after. "

University officials have asked professors to combine classes. This allows more students to sign up for a class, but doubles the workload for faculty. With an already low teacher to student ratio, class combinations could have an adverse effect.

Teachers have more to handle and become stressed, which isn`t good for students, " Webber said.

Other students who are used to sitting through big auditorium classes are fine with the combinations.

I`m used to having big classes, " said Bastiaan Barry, a senior electrical engineering major.  Heather Sutton, a sophomore forensics science major, agreed.

If they did combine any of my classes, I wouldn`t notice, " she said.

A possibility of future budget cuts worries university officials as well as Student Government Association President, Brandie Hollinger.

In an e-mail interview, Hollinger wrote, While I haven`t heard many complaints from the student body about not being able to get into classes or problems with advising, it is still a concern of mine that with deeper cuts, this could become a reality. "

While instructional and advising staff will be salvaged from further cuts, administrative service positions face reductions.

Hal Mendelsohn, a reference librarian, said the freeze hinders the library from doing things it needs to do. There is a heavier workload for fewer staff members, so staff must compromise on what gets done, he said.

UCF has one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. So here`s the $15.5 million question: Should the state increase university tuition?

I wouldn`t have a problem with it, if it helps, " Webber said. He said he would prefer to pay the extra money than have existing programs cut from the curriculum.

Mendelsohn also said a tuition hike would be a reasonable solution. You can`t run a school with the same budget as years before. " Faculty has to make money and it has to come from somewhere, he added.

Gov. Charlie Crist released a total of about $983 million in budget revisions Friday. In the proposal, UCF will lose $4.7 million for its medical school in Lake Nona.