Friday, January 9, 2009

TSU layoffs, furloughs are on the table

School must cut budget by $9M By Colby Sledge • THE TENNESSEAN • January 9, 2009 Tennessee State University could face furloughs and layoffs in the next year as the school faces a proposed 15 percent cut in state money as well as declining student revenues. TSU President Melvin Johnson delivered the news Thursday in his "State of the University" address, which also celebrated recent successes, including a $1 million gift, the largest TSU has ever received. "We have the opportunity to take a good hard look at not only what we need to cut back, but also what we need to invest in," Johnson said. In TSU's report to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission this week, the school planned to use layoffs, voluntary furloughs and possibly larger classes to reach the $9 million in cuts to the school's budget. State higher education funds overall probably will decrease at least 15 percent, or $181.6 million, in the next fiscal year. Johnson did not give specifics Thursday when asked about layoffs or furloughs, only saying all plans were on the table. The school laid off 10 employees last year. "No matter how much we do to cut back in other areas, it's going to eventually hit our personnel," Johnson said. Personnel costs account for about three-quarters of the school's budget. President-issued furloughs would have to be approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents, which will take up a vote on the matter Wednesday. David Stephens, a building activities supervisor for the student center, said he would be willing to take a furlough or even lose his job if it helped TSU. "We may say we work 40 hours, but we have people who come in on Saturday and Sunday," Stephens said. "A lot of people will bend over backward to keep TSU running and viable." After Johnson's address, faculty and staff members proposed possible cuts and savings, including an online warehouse for departments to keep running inventories of office supplies and renting out university spaces for conferences. Revenue from students will be increasingly important, Johnson said, as state appropriations decrease. Johnson displayed a chart that showed $57.1 million, or 56 percent, of the school's budget came from student tuition and fees. The tuition revenues were down $6.8 million from last year as enrollment dropped nearly 700 students to 8,400 this fall. Johnson fired the financial aid director and reassigned several top officials after students complained about student services. As of late Thursday, about 750 students had not paid or had not confirmed their registration on the school's intranet, meaning their schedules for the spring semester would be dropped. The school switched to the Banner student registration system in the fall, resulting in confusion over changes in requirements. All students who had not paid or confirmed their registration by mid-December were notified by e-mail to their TSU accounts and by phone, said Cynthia Brooks, TSU vice president of business and finance. Candace Carr, a senior nursing student, received an e-mail from the school when she hadn't confirmed her schedule. She took care of it that day. "It went smoothly," Carr said. "My sister had the same system in her school (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga), so she told me I needed to confirm my classes." Students whose schedules were dropped will be able to re-register for classes beginning Monday. The first day of classes is Thursday.

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