Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What are the alternatives?

Tomorrow's "The Death of UVM Education?" funeral procession highlights what will be dealt a mortal blow -- experienced faculty, small classes, livable dorms, affordability for Vermonters, job security, respect for long-time faculty and staff etc. -- if President Fogel's plans go through to downsize faculty and staff while boosting the number of students and tuition. But we're also emphasizing that the administration has alternatives to balancing its budget that don't put the health of our university at risk. Those alternatives include ....

TAP THE ENDOWMENT: As argued in the Chronicle of Higher Education, colleges and universities lucky enough to have a decent endowment should tap that endowment to make it through the national recession rather than resort to downsizing faculty, staff, and education. Business Week lists UVM’s endowment, after the stock market plunge, at more than $202 million. Tapping just 5%—$10 million per year—over the next 3 years could get UVM through the national downturn without squeezing more from students. 

SLOW THE PACE: The dramatic size of the budget deficit is due not so much to a dip in stock market revenues, state support reduction, and administrative overspending but much more to the administration’s aim to change rapidly UVM’s long-standing practice of financial “planning”: underbudgeting for actual academic and student support program needs, then making up the difference each year with “one-time” funds. Now the administration wants to force programs to reduce, adjust, and live on an amount that’s never been adequate. If UVM needs to alter its budget practices, it should not happen quickly, under the guise of crisis, and by starving academic programs.

IF CUTS MUST BE MADE, CUT FROM THE TOP: For a campus of 12,000 students, UVM has grown top heavy with 22 vice presidents, more than 24 deans, plus senior directors, liaisons, officers, and vice provosts. Between 2001 and 2007 spending on top executive salaries nearly tripled, from $2.6 million to $6.1 million. A return to the 2001 executive salary pool would net $9 million in salary savings over two years—and save the jobs of faculty and staff on whom UVM’s future and reputation depend.

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