State Cuts University Funding, Shepherd Faces Issues

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As the cost of tuition increases at Shepherd University, the money allocated to academic departments has been slashed by 20 percent. While the actual dollar figure of the cuts is quite small, the impact to the students and professors could be quite large.

In an e-mail dated April 25, 2013, President Suzanne Shipley identified the state of the university’s budget for faculty and staff members. She cited a $1 million reduction in state funding as well as a quarter of a million dollars in increased operating costs as the major problems accounting for a $2.19 million short fall.

President Shipley identified several cost saving measures to make up the money, including cost reduction measures and an increase in tuition, expected to generate just over $1 million in income.

While the tuition increase will only effect students, the across the board reductions will have a certain impact on department chairs and professors as they seek to provide the same, or an even better, standard of learning as that which has been offered in the past. While all staff positions are safe, the lack of funds can still pose practical problems to professors and students.

The Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Chris Ames, explained the methodology used in cutting the departments which fall under his auspicious. He indicated “a cut [to] operating budgets rather than staff.” He further explained that notification of the cuts was transmitted to department chairs this summer, and he and his office are working with them to “manage the reductions as efficiently as possible.”

Dr. Betty Ellzey, professor of English and department chair of English and Modern Languages, acknowledged her budget is one of the smaller ones on campus and that she will be contacting all of her professors to ensure they ration their copying of handouts. Dr. Ellzey encouraged the use of Sakai and PDF formatting to make up for the scarcity of funds. She also acknowledged reduced copying will increase the burden on students to print handouts or bring a laptop to class. Aside from those measures, she acknowledged there isn’t much else to do.

“If we run out of paper for the copy machine in March, we run out of paper. There’s no money to buy more,” she said.

Dr. Sally Brasher, associate professor of history and coordinator of the Honors Program, believes the faculty who teach the Honors courses have done everything in their power to make the experience for students the best it can be, but acknowledges that this year will pose some large obstacles. Dr. Brasher expressed her hope that the limitations presented to the Honors Program will not harm its retention rate.

In years past, the Honors program has sponsored many faculty led field trips to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other sites.

Dr. Brasher indicated, “This year we will be forced to cancel all but a few of those trips.”

Additionally, transportation will be provided by faculty driving University vans or their private cars.

Harley Smith, an English major and participant in the Honors Program expressed her concern regarding the cuts: “In hearing that the fieldtrips will become scarce I am saddened. The field trips I have been on have proven to be invaluable resources.”

On a positive note, Smith described the small class sizes as the best part of the program, which will not be impacted by the cuts.

Jade Flamenco, an English and environmental science major, hopes the cuts will cause more students to take notice of the budget and the general operations of the University.