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Stimulus funds to help but MTSU budget cuts to continue, McPhee says

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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 mwillard@murfreesboropost.com.
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Members Opinions:
March 10, 2009 at 4:15pm
McPhee is cutting the 4 departments to use the money to pad up the PhD programs. So, many faculty and staff will be out of a job and students will lose their departments. These cuts are not really neccessary for MTSU to survive. They are to try and make McPhee look good. If these departments are cut then he will never be anything more than a failure in my eyes.
March 10, 2009 at 4:32pm
And you know this how? Have you read the Steering Committee's recommendations? McPhee isn't/hasn/t cut anything yet. Everything that has been mentioned has ONLY been suggested by the four study groups and the steering committee. Maybe, you should wait until the president has made his recommendations before you start making assumptions.
March 10, 2009 at 9:10pm
Fine, McPhee is "suggesting" the cutting of the 4 departments to use the money to pad up the PhD programs. Happy? Come talk to me again on March 20th, and let's hope you're right.
March 10, 2009 at 10:25pm
Jamie, I can understand how you and others feel in response to MTSU's proposed budget cuts. If and when the cuts happen, there will be a trickle down effect, especially for Murfreesboro. I have commented before on this article and received a personal response from a reader on the post. Through a personal experience years ago, what you and your fellow student body should realize is universities are not immune from recessions. What I would like to say to you as a group is, " With a respectful and responsible sense of character, fight in what you believe. When in the end, the answer that you were seeking is not the one you had hoped for, pick up and move forward." I commend you all for seeking a higher education and your pursuit of happiness in achieving your future. Good luck in your future endeavors.
March 10, 2009 at 11:47pm
Thank you for your comments and understanding. As a graduate of MTSU from one of the departments on the chopping block, I think it is sad to see money spent on new baseball feilds and rec center expansions and then turn around and cut the sciences. Not to mention, being a single mom without a job is pretty much going to suck. I've been looking and there isn't much out there. It has become very disheartening and extremely frustrating.
March 11, 2009 at 4:15pm
You are very welcome Jamie. Relatively speaking, the cuts to this university is to the faculty and students, just as saying, Nissan closing their doors to a couple withfour kids,a car and house payments. To say that it can never happen to the best of us, is to wake up from a dream. this recession has caused havoc everwhere imaginable and worsens by the day.

March 11, 2009 at 4:44pm
Jamie, unfortunately by not getting your facts straight you undermine your crediability. The Baseball field was paid for with private donations and other non university funds. The Rec Center expansion is being paid with student fees, not tuition, but some of those $$$ that are tacked onto every students bill each semester. If you have realistic ideas about how to balance the budget without cutting programs, please let Dr. McPhee know. The university faces a deep financial crisis which is going to affect many people, both on and off campus. It is not a fun time for anyone involved but in the end should make the university stronger.
March 11, 2009 at 7:17pm
Felixstow, when it comes down to higher education, it should not matter what this and that was paid for or where the funds came from. Everyone who teaches and attends a university should be able to succeed in the area of subjects they choose. What the facts are, MTSU are losing on programs that enable students to obtain a degree.
March 12, 2009 at 10:34pm
barrettbear, I disagree, it does matter where the funding comes from and what it can be used for. It is ironic that people involved in education do nothing to educate themselves about an issue before they start making erroneous comments. The facts are, the university doesn't have the funds to be everything to everybody that it was before. When the university could expand and offer additional degrees and courses they did. Now the university must contract and reduce the number of low enrollment/degree producing programs. The university grew when times were good and it must cut when times are bad.
March 13, 2009 at 3:58pm
Well then, I guess if it really matters where funds come from for this and that, then maybe tax dollars need not be wasted on those ball fields and spare an education for a single mom that has to work and support three kids. I would assume that there are people in education that are very well educated on issue before erroneous comments are made. Maybe some of us needs that extra bit of classroom one on one to understand economics better. If it were I on top having to decide what goes first, by all means, the football, basketball, baseball and the other sports could go first ride. A university is for higher education, not some playground function that lasts for about three hours at a time.
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