MTSU will continue its budget-cutting process, but over a longer period of time thanks to federal stimulus funds, Pres. Sidney McPhee said.
Gov. Phil Bredesen said Monday the $4.5 billion in federal stimulus funds due to flow into Nashville will help the state’s current budget woes, but not fix long-term challenges.
"We are going to work to get these funds out as quickly as possible. Obviously, families are continuing to struggle during these tough times," Bredesen said.
Families aren’t the only ones struggling, state agencies – like higher education – are also looking down the barrel of deep budget cuts in the coming fiscal year.
Bredesen said the stimulus money will defer some of the more “draconian” cuts that had been considered in the state's higher education system, but cautioned it is not a long-term fix.
"Higher education has definitely dodged a bullet over the short term with the stimulus package," he said.
McPhee also cautioned the federal funds are not a “silver bullet” to kill off “long-term budget woes.”
“The stimulus funds that will be allocated to MTSU should allow us to mitigate tuition increases for a couple of years and help to offset some of the immediate cuts that we had previously anticipated,” McPhee said.
“But, as Governor Bredesen has indicated, these funds will only ‘buy us some time’ as we seek to develop and implement more long-term strategies that will effectively address the critical institutional challenges that are looming,” he continued.
McPhee said the university will continue with its budget-cutting process, which so far has suggested eliminating temporary faculty, restructuring certain departments and implementing other cost-saving and revenue-generating measures as a first step.
On the drastic side, the budget cuts could eliminate up to 44 majors and 4 entire departments. Current students in the effected departments would be allowed to complete their degrees, but no new majors would be allowed.
“It is important that we continue to move forward with our current collaborative process for developing a set of recommendations that will not only allow us to address key short- and long-term budget challenges but also strategically position MTSU for future growth and stability,” McPhee said.
Tennessee is looking at a $1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year. And economists don’t expect an economic rebound until this time next year at the earliest.
“This has resulted in budget reductions of almost $144 million being allocated to our institutions during fiscal year 2009-10,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning said.
MTSU’s portion of the cuts could be upward of $20 million from its $345 million budget. In response to the budget shortfall, McPhee formed committees to look at the school and find ways to save money.
“MTSU is the first to have a public document laying out the options for cuts, and we believe the university is to be congratulated for the openness, inclusivity, and transparency of its process,” TBR Communications Director Mary Morgan said.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.