September 21, 2018 | ° F

U. budgets student comments, concerns

Photo by Jing You |

University Assistant Secretary Kate Cahill, President Richard L. McCormick and Executive Vice President Phillip J. Furmanski take questions regarding the University's budget last night at the Cook Campus Center.

After releasing information regarding the University's budget for the upcoming fiscal year last month, the administration opened their ears to the community last night in the Cook Campus Center Multipurpose Room.

Students and faculty posed questions, complaints and concerns to the administration at an open hearing on the University's budget.

President Richard L. McCormick said the administration is developing the budget with the concerns of the University community in mind.

"We will make every effort to use resources we already have," McCormick said. "When the time comes to make painful decisions about cuts to our programs and increases in tuition and fees, we will make them with enormous care and great reluctance and with sensitivity to precisely the concerns everyone raises."

McCormick said he would be testifying to the State Assembly and Senate budget committees next week in Trenton.

"I can assure you that before this process comes to completion in July, we will make every effort to obtain restoration of some of the funds that we are currently slated to lose," he said. "We are not taking this lying down."

The University is committed to providing the best education, service and community it can while advancing knowledge and scholarships and maintaining affordability, said Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Philip J. Furmanski.

The University's budget issues have exacerbated over time as it has continually faced losses in state appropriations over the last 10 or 12 years, Furmanski said.

State appropriations and fringe benefits paid for 69.9 percent of a University education in 1989, according to University data.

Tuition and fees paid for the majority of a student's education by 2004, and today, they pay for 62.1 percent of a University education.

Vice President for University Budgeting Nancy Winterbauer said Gov. Chris Christie's proposed budget cuts 15 percent or $46.6 million of the University's state appropriations.

The cut compounded with $30 million in unfunded mandates for salary increases and rising costs leaves the University with a $90 million budget hole, Winterbauer said.

A shortfall of $80 million in 2006 led the University to cancel about 450 course sections and led to 185 layoffs or eliminated positions, according to a University Media Relations press release.

Furmanski said the University has not reached any decisions regarding cancelled courses or layoffs.

The administration placed no number on possible tuition hikes.

Associate Professor of Library Sciences Daniel O'Connor said the governor's proposed merger of the University, Thomas Edison State College and the New Jersey State Library would be a disaster.

O'Connor said the governor's proposed budget eliminates funding for the state library, which leaves the University footing its bill.

If the University decided not to fund the state library and dismantled the facility, it would face public uproar, O'Connor said.

McCormick said the University is eyeing the possible absorption with due diligence.

Multiple students asked questions regarding why the University continued or started construction if the budget situation is so dire.

McCormick and Furmanski detailed the criteria the administration uses when considering construction.

Any new building has to have a revenue stream associated with it or has to be supported through private donations, McCormick said. The University would not have considered building the welcome center without private donations from two individuals.

The University is pursuing alternative revenues to alleviate cuts, including online courses, he said.

In regard to the possibility of hosting concerts at the football stadium, McCormick said Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is aggressively seeking ways to utilize the stadium to generate new revenue sources.

School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior Chelsea Simkins said the state's fiscal crisis offers the University a chance to reinvent itself by connecting with the citizens of the state.

Simkins said if the University community demonstrates its value to the state, the state would be more committed to funding the University.

McCormick said he is interested in hearing specific new ways to reach out to communities throughout the state.

Simkins said the University should consider fixing the heating systems in older facilities to save money in electrical costs.

Joel Salvino, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student, expressed anger with the University's administration and asked students to participate in a rally against the cuts and tuition hikes on April 21 at Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus.

McCormick said the University increases tuition as a last resort and does not consider students ATM machines.

Greg Flynn

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