Cutbacks expected in CAS

Increased class sizes and fewer professors will likely greet students this fall as the College of Arts and Sciences continues to struggle with its budget deficit, now projected at $2.2 million for fiscal year 2006.

Cuts to UA’s budget request, which is currently working its way through the Senate, indicate the situation won’t be resolved in the coming year, university officials say.

The math department, for instance, will be down four instructors this fall, and Hilary Davies, the department’s chairwoman, said the department is being forced to scale back its courses as a result.

“We’ve had to cancel one upper-division course in fall and one in spring,” she said. “We just don’t have enough faculty to cover statistics.”

The entire college is feeling the squeeze, Davies said, and in addition to cutting back on course offerings, some departments will be forced to increase class sizes.

“We’ve got one math 200 class that’s going to be 80 students, which we’ve never done before,” she said. “Math 201 is going to be 60, and Math 202 is going to be 47. That’s because of the lack of money.”

Dean James Liszka of the CAS confirmed students can expect increased class sizes in certain courses this fall.

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The hiring freeze within the CAS, enacted last October, has convoluted the proposition of hiring adequate faculty, he said.

That means departments will be forced to replace full-time faculty with adjunct professors.

“Forty-seven percent of the lower-division enrollment in mathematics is taught by adjuncts in this department,” Davies said. “I want tenure-track faculty. I’ve asked and asked and asked.”

Liszka said the low salary paid to adjunct professors-which is about $3,000 per semester-is the motivating factor behind their hire. Adjuncts do not deliver an inferior education, he said, but they generally contribute less to the university than do full-time professors.

The hiring freeze is expected to save the college $615,000 per year for this year and the next, he said, although it has not yet been officially adopted beyond June 30 of this year.

“That’s both actual money saved this year for recruitment and replacement positions, or just leaving positions vacant,” he said.

Approximately 50 percent of the CAS faculty is adjunct, Liszka said, although adjunct professors teach only 25 percent of the courses.

“Over the last five years, we’ve stayed pretty steady at the number of adjuncts we’ve been able to hire,” he said. “So that’s an indication that we’ve kind of maxed out that pool.”

While the adjunct faculty will remain relatively constant, Liszka said there will likely be fewer tenured faculty in the fall because of the hiring freeze’s effect on regular operation-those retiring and resigning will probably not be replaced with tenure-track faculty.

There will also likely be fewer term professors in the fall, he said, but not a significant drop.

“We were very careful to work that out, in terms of how many terms we could rehire,” he said.

Liszka said he could not speculate as to what sort of reduction in the number of term professors could be expected, saying only that it would be “a little bit less.”

But that will depend on what the budget that reaches his desk looks like.

“We’re certainly hoping that at least there’s an increase in our budget to cover our increase in operational costs,” he said.

The Senate Finance Committee approved $279 million for UA on April 11 _” an increase of $34.3 million more than last year’s budget. The bill goes before the full Senate April 19. If approved in its current form, the budget will be $13 million less than the original request for $292 million.

“Satisfied is maybe not the right word. We were encouraged compared to the House figure,” said Pat Pitney, associate vice president of budget and institutional research. “The fortunate thing with the Senate figure is that we have the funding necessary to maintain our current programs.”

Although Alaska is looking at a $1.2 billion surplus this year, Kate Ripley, director of public affairs for UA, said the university understands that the state has financial obligations other than the university, and she did not think the current cuts to UA’s allocation were unreasonable.

“We need 30 million extra dollars just to maintain, just to do exactly what we’re doing right now,” Kate Ripley, director of public affairs for UA, said. “If we get the $34 million, it will be double the largest increase we’ve ever gotten before. But all it really does is allow us to maintain, so it’s sort of bittersweet.”

Rising retirement and healthcare costs are the largest sources of operational cost increases for the university, she said. And increasing enrollment doesn’t help.

Enrollment has been growing at approximately 2 percent per semester at UAA’s main campus _” 1,556 freshmen applied for the fall 2006 semester – according to Enrollment Services.

While having more students helps the university grow and expand its programs, what students pay in tuition covers only about 22 percent of the university’s actual operating costs. Therefore, when more students enroll, the university is forced to spend more money to pay for their education.

“It’s definitely a catch-22,” Ripley said. “As you add more students, it’s great, you get more tuition revenue, but when that tuition revenue isn’t covering the costs of delivering the instruction, you need more money.”

Although having more students increases costs, UA continues advertising to attract students because it needs to grow in order to perform its mission, she said.

“We aren’t having to cut programs, so the funding is keeping up (with the increasing student population),” she said. “But the funding is not enough to really be considered an investment to grow, and to be more responsive and to be able to meet all the demand and waiting lists and offer more for our students.”

The funding shortage, in turn, means students can be expected to shoulder the increasing cost of operation, as evidenced by the 46.3 percent increase in tuition UA students have faced during the last four years.

And when there is a deficit, as in the CAS, the influx of students only pushes the university further in the hole.

“I would say, on average, we lose about $40 to $50 per student credit hour,” Liszka said. “Certainly CAS appears to me to be under-funded, and I believe also that both UAA and UA are under-funded.”

Regardless of the amount the Legislature approves, funding disparities between campuses will likely remain a contentious issue for administrators.

“In many respects, UAF is more expensive, and reasonably so, because it’s a research institution,” Liszka said. “But in my view, I do think that there should definitely be some consideration of the number of students that the institution serves, and that budget should, in some way or another, follow students.”

UAA’s main campus had 14,924 students in the fall semester of 2004, while UAF had 9,380, according to Enrollment Services. However, the university’s appropriations of the state money don’t reflect that difference. According to the UA’s 2006 distribution plan, UAF received $117 million in state funds this year, representing 47.4 percent of the budget. But UAA received only $89 million, or 35.9 percent of the legislature’s allocation.

The reason why UAF gets such a substantially larger portion of the budget compared with UAA, Ripley said, is that the Fairbanks campus is a more research-intensive location.

“While they do get a lot of federal dollars for research, there is a piece of state general fund that needs to match it,” she said. “The other thing is that Fairbanks is the only Ph.D.-granting institution in the state, and Ph.D.’s cost more to get than a bachelor’s or a master’s. It’s part of the difference in the missions (between campuses).”

However, Ripley stressed the importance of the CAS in producing well-rounded students, and said its needs cannot be overlooked when it comes time to create a budget.

“Definitely, the College of Arts and Sciences is going to be taken into very serious account in crafting the budget,” she said. “Our mission isn’t just focused on one thing. I don’t think we place research over teaching; they’re equally important.”

That’s why making sure the Legislature gives UA adequate money to work with is the student government’s top priority.

“I think UAA is going to need a lot more funding coming up because of the Integrated Science Facility,” said Sen. Jessica Armstrong, a junior majoring in civil engineering. “That’s going to be a huge undertaking just because of the research, the labs, and the building itself.”

Armstrong said USUAA is lobbying the legislature for more funding for UAA because of the university’s expanding needs.

“We’re asking for more than in previous years,” she said. “But really, with the increasing student body, we’re not asking for any more than we need.”