Recession Hits SEMO Univ. in Budget Crunch - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Cape Girardeau, MO

Recession Hits SEMO Univ. in Budget Crunch

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS12) - We've all been forced to cut back as the economy continues to struggle but now, that budget belt tightening has struck a one-two punch to Southeast Missouri State University.

"We were surprised, at least I was, that it took this long for us to get to this situation," said Southeast Missouri State University Presiden

First, Dobbins expects the cash-strapped state of Missouri will withhold the college's monthly budget payment and soon.

"We receive a little less than $4 million a month....and consequently, what will happen is...they won't give us the full amount or they won't give us any," Dobbins said.

"We are halfway through the current fiscal year, so you've got a budget established for this year and people have been making plans in their departments to operate off those amounts," said Southeast Finance Vice President Kathy Mangels. 

Second, Dr. Dobbins got an email from the Deputy Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education.  It calls on all of Missouri's public institutions to come up with plans to handle state budget cut starting next July of 15, 20, or even 25 percent.  For Southeast, that could add up to $6 even 11 million.

"I think that, unfortunately, with such a large magnitude, if it goes to that....if it goes to that, I think everyone is going to have a piece of this," Dobbins said. 

"First thing we'll have to do is increase class size," said Provost Jane Stephens.

Stephens knows any budget cut will cut into the choices Southeast can offer its more than 10,000 students.  Stephens helped the school manage its way through a similar budget mess between 2002 and 2004.

"Last time, we eliminated four major programs, 17 faculty positions, and ten of those held tenure," Stephens said. 

But, if there's any silver lining here, it's that past experience.  In fact, ever since then leaders have tracked each class, what it costs, how many students want to take it. 

Heartland News asked Jane Stephens which majors might be more succeptible to cuts.

"A major that's very equipment-intensive, a major that the faculty salaries are higher, these are the majors that are obviously maybe in jeopardy and students come here for those particular majors," she said.  "It's going to be difficult.  It will impact students.  It will give them fewer choices."

"We have to be realistic and we have to maintain quality. So, we'll look at those programs, both instructional and non-instructional and we'll make decisions that maintain quality, always keeping the students in mind," Mangels said.

"Am I concerned? Yes. Am I panicked? No. Let's do it like we did before and move forward together," Dobbins said.

Read a letter sent by Southeast President Ken Dobbins about budget cuts at the school.

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