New round of budget cuts hit university

Portland State is about to be hit with the most tangible evidence of the economic recession it has seen yet, and the effects will start to appear by spring term. According to university President Wim Wiewel, the University Budget Team has been working on budget reductions for the remainder of the 2008-09 academic year, with proposed reductions of 6 percent in the President’s Office, 2.5 percent to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and 1.5 percent to the School of Fine and Performing Arts. Lindsay Desrochers, vice president of finance and administration, said “there won’t be any significant reductions in student services in this current round,” because an initial 5-percent budget reduction has already been imposed. Desrochers said that the effects of current reductions will begin with small cuts to things such as transportation allowances for faculty and other administrative finances. Students who receive the Oregon Opportunity Grant have already felt the effects of the economic crisis, with a reduction of aid amount for this spring term. Full-time students are seeing $80 taken from their financial aid, while part-time students are losing $40. According to a press release from the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, the reasons for this are a combination of lower-than-projected funds and an increase in need for the grant. However, further financial strain across the state has the potential to create more drastic cuts in the 2009-10 school year, Desrochers said. While future budget reductions may reach as high as 12.5 percent, Desrochers said that it would be “more strategic than just straight across the board.” She said that each academic unit has been asked to propose what can be done without before any final decisions are made on what services to reduce. As for the specifics of what students can expect for their university, Desrochers was unsure at this time, stating that the services to be affected depend on what is decided by each individual university department. According to a memo of Portland State’s initial budget assessment by Desrochers, dated Feb. 20, “A bill is currently running in the State Legislature to mandate additional reductions of approximately $350 million with a likely implementation date of March 1, 2009. For Portland State, this represents approximately another $7.9 million [in cuts].” Despite strategic budget planning, Desrochers said that students should expect to see significant reduction to services in the upcoming academic years, including larger class sizes and fewer course offerings. “Reductions are likely in both courses and services to students,” Desrochers said. Wiewel also acknowledged this, writing in his letter to the campus, “As a campus community, we will no doubt be further challenged as the governor and state legislators confront the realities of this economic crisis.” Student Body President Hannah Fisher said this was a time for student leaders to work together with legislators and university officials. “I think now it is more imperative than ever for student leaders to play a role in the shared governance process,” Fisher said. “It’s only this advocacy that will keep our tuition low and student services intact.” Fisher said students feeling the pressure of reduced services and growing class sizes should consider educational opportunities outside the classroom, including getting involved with student government or other student groups. “That’s something that cuts will not affect,” she said.



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