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Higher education leaders look how to address multi-million dollar funding cuts

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Feb. 26, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 25, 2011 at 8:26 p.m.

Tom Butler

impact of CUTS to higher edVictoria College President Tom Butler announced Friday ways to tackle a possible $2 million cut.

The tax rate would have to increase by 27 percent, from 15.31 to 19.31 cents per $100 valuation.

Tuition would have to increase 72 percent, from $34 to $58.50 per student credit hour.

As many as 33 faculty, administrative and/or professional staff positions could be lost.

The result could be as many as 400 fewer full-time students would be served, according to a new release.

The University of Houston-Victoria also estimates a cut of about $2.5 million, but has not announced a strategy for dealing with the cuts. Butler hopes in the coming months to mobilize local business, industry and the community to help plead the case for VC and higher education.

Victoria College released three grim strategies Friday on how it could possibly deal with a likely $2 million budget cut.

VC has already dealt with state cuts of almost $1 million this year and the ideas for next year tackle staff eliminations, and increasing the tax rate and student tuition, according to a news release.

"Just to put things in perspective, in order to make up a $2 million loss, the tax rate would have to increase by 27 percent, from 15.31 to 19.31 cents per $100 valuation, or tuition would have to increase 72 percent, from $34 to $58.50 per student credit hour," said VC President Tom Butler, in the release. "The repercussion of such an increase in costs to students is difficult to estimate, but it is safe to conclude that a significant number of students would no longer be able to afford to attend VC."

In order to make a lean budget leaner, the school could even look at eliminating higher paying administrative, faculty or staff positions, according to the release.

Butler estimated as many as 33 faculty, administrative and/or professional staff positions could be lost. The result could be 400 fewer full-time students would be served, according to the release.

"Budget cuts of this magnitude at this time will seriously affect our ability to meet the training and education needs of the crossroads," Butler said.

The University of Houston-Victoria also estimates a cut of about $2.5 million, said UHV Interim President Don Smith, which brings a two-fold problem.

"We have a double-barrel kind of problem," he said. "We have to find the funds to address the reductions, whatever those turn out to be... and we also have to find the money for growth."

A third demand is to pay for other issues related to being a four-year university, Smith said.

The school has no specific strategy yet, Smith said. The University of Houston System will decide as a whole how to handle tuition increases, which could be an option.

"All options have to remain on the table at this point, particularly because none of us know," he said.

Because of the school's recent growth, Smith said it's not likely faculty will be cut, but the budget dicing is the least of his worries.

"The effect is measured not in diminished resources," he said. "It's measured in the diminished opportunities and diminished dreams of students and a diminished future for all of us."

Both Smith and Butler took their concerns to Austin earlier this month and testified before appropriations committees who hold the purse strings for higher education.

"The worst possible case would be to come out of the recession undereducated, under-trained and unable to compete nationally or internationally," Butler said, in the release. "The good news is that we do have time to work with the legislature with the hope that budget cuts for community college education can be taken to a more manageable level."

Butler hopes in the coming months to mobilize local business, industry and the community to help plead the case for VC.

"We need to gather our forces and really show our legislature what a tremendous impact VC has in this community so that they understand that they cannot afford to make these kinds of cuts," he said.

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