Despite slashing $1 million from each of the three major colleges at the University of Southern Maine, the three deans each assure the budget cuts will have minimal effects on students’ academic experience.
“There’s always an impact when you’re reducing budgets,” said Andrew Anderson, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Health. “We’re simply trying to find ways to minimize that impact.”
The budget cuts aim to steer USM out of fiscal straits, with Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell projecting a $5 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year 2013, which begins June 1. The college deans met with Provost John Wright Feb. 29 to submit the proposed cuts to their budgets, and those recommendations are now in the hands of President Selma Botman.
The deans wouldn’t share the nature of the proposed cuts because they aren’t finalized. Each college as a budget of around $16 million, most of which is in personnel, and Lynn Kuzma, the dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences said all strategies for reducing the budget remain on the table, including cutting jobs. Kuzma said laying off tenured professors was not an option because under their contract they are entitled to 18 months severance pay, which would make their being laid off irrelevant to the problems in the FY13 budget.
Kuzma stressed the goal of the budget cuts is to reduce the budget with the smallest possible effect on students.
“We live and die by the number of students who come to our university,” Kuzma said. “The last thing one would want to do in a situation where you have to reduce budgets is to do anything that could affect students wanting to come to this university.”
Dean of the College of Management and Human Service Joseph McDonnell said that like the other colleges, over 90 percent of his budget is tied up in salaries and benefits for personnel. Still, despite the necessity of much of the reductions coming from personnel, said he kept an eye to trimming administration in his college while considering budget cuts, with a particular focus on the top tiers of the college.
“The vast majority of reductions in this college will be from the administrative personnel rather than from faculty,” he said. “I don’t think students will feel the impact in our college.”
Contributing to the projected budget shortfall are a 12.3 percent decline in student enrollment over the last decade, and the recent decision by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees to freeze in-state tuition for one year.