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UW budget cut to affect students, UWRF classrooms

April 2, 2009

“Reality is, we are getting hit hard,” UW-River Falls Interim Chancellor Connie Foster said.

Foster’s choice of a few strong words describes how she feels the recently announced UW budget cuts will affect UWRF students and their future educational experience on campus.

According to the March 11 Board of Regents press release, UWRF will experience a $5.7 million cut of the total $174 million budget cut from all UW schools. The significant cut will affect UWRF students in the future.

“UWRF will continue to try and provide the courses our students need to graduate on time with the skills that will allow them to achieve success after they graduate,” Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, said. “But course sections will grow in size and fewer electives will be made available.”

UWRF will begin with changes that will affect the least amount of students and grow from there.

“We will increase classes that are appropriate and cut lower enrolled classes as well,” Foster said. “As students register, classes with 15 or less may be affected.”

With a decrease in students’ opportunities during the academic school year, changes will also be made during the summer and over J-Term.

According to Foster, students will be encouraged to take advantage of classes during the summer and the increase in J-Term class availability.

The specific departments and classes that will be affected are still to be determined, yet the concept of change is definite.

A closer look into the budget cut revealed that a large majority is due to the auxiliary transfer.

According to the UW Board of Regents Web site, an auxiliary transfer is the shift of surplus moneys from auxiliary enterprises for the purpose of funding to the one-time fixed duration cost of another.

According to Gov. Jim Doyle’s 2009-11 budget cut released by the UW Board of Regents, UWRF’s auxiliary transfer consists of 35 percent of the total budget cut.

In comparison to other UW campuses, UWRF has the fourth highest auxiliary transfer amount and that is due to the amount of money a campus saves for future repairs, construction and improvements.

“Unfortunately, the more you save, the more you pay,” Foster said.

Throughout the UW System, UWRF may have received a larger auxiliary transfer cut, yet the damage is minor compared to other campuses.

According to Madison’s newspaper, The Capital Times, UW-Madison has lost over 66 faculty positions in the last five years due to budget cuts, and they anticipate more losses due to the 2009-11 budget cut.

Faculty losing their jobs is a solution at UW-Madison, but is not that case at UWRF.

“We have no plans and have not discussed any [teachers or faculty] losing their jobs,” Foster said.

According to Foster, instead of laying off working teachers, UWRF has been put on a hiring-freeze. Any teacher or faculty member who retires or leaves for personal reasons will not be replaced during the next school year.

Outside the classroom, students will also encounter slight changes in student fees due to the cut in budget.

At the March 10 UWRF Student Senate meeting, it was decided students will see a $154 increase in double residential housing rooms from $3,084 to $3,238. Dining Services will also increase by $70 and Health and Human Performance fees will increase by $10.

A UWRF sophomore said the increases may affect her future decisions.

“I will probably try to find somewhere to live off campus because I am sure there is a lot of other placed that are cheaper than the dorms,” Tara Straub said. “The dorms are not worth it if they cost more.”

Students and faculty who are a part of UWRF may feel the future budget cut and the increase in tuition and student fees, but the goal is still present.

“At UWRF, our priority is to strive to have students graduate on time,” Foster said. “We really care.”

Minimal changes will be made, but modifications will be noticed.

“The cuts are real, and they are very challenging,” UW System President Kevin Reilly said. “Cuts of this magnitude will certainly impact our plans to grow enrollments and may well hurt the education our current students receive.”