Over the course of 2016, St. Cloud State University has endured extensive budget cuts in order to meet financial demands. This has cost students, faculty and community members a lot of anger and hardship. To understand what is being cut and why, we have to take a look at the state and federal budget, along with financial incentives that the university has.
St. Cloud State’s Financial Recovery Plan
Before 2015, St. Cloud State relied on a lot of its income from financial reserves. SCSU President Earl Potter calls this “The Bleeding.” In 2011, St. Cloud State reached its highest student population, but the fiscal year ended and enrollment declined. The slow decrease in student population made the university rely on more money from these reserves. This is around the same time Minnesota stopped spending as many resources on education, with state money covering 60 percent of costs. Now the state pays for only 39 percent of education costs. This means the public pays more for their education than the state does.
President Potter says higher education is curtailing to students that have more needs whether, it’s financial or academic. 70 percent of SCSU students are on financial aid. These actions are what led to the deficit that SCSU is facing now. So what programs have been cut and what should we expect in the near future?
Beginning Budget Cuts
Budget cuts for different degrees at SCSU started with the aviation degree. The MNSCU system only has two aviation programs offered at its schools, one at SCSU and the other at Mankato. After the construction of the $40 million ISELF building and renovations to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, the Aviation department got the boot, leaving its students and faculty infuriated that their nationally recognized program was looked at as a financial burden.
The program was the first in a series of budget cuts. Last month, six SCSU sports teams were slashed from the athletic department including men’s and women’s nordic skiing, men’s track and field and men’s and women’s tennis along with recruitment cuts to football and other men’s sports teams.
This isn’t just happening at SCSU. All across the country, state colleges and universities are downsizing their athletic programs because they don’t want taxpayer money going into student athletics.
Recently, SCSU has announced they have another cut within their agenda. This time, it is in the college of liberal arts. We contacted the Dean of the Liberal Arts College to speak with us, but no one responded.
What exactly is going to be cut in the liberal arts department?
According to President Potter, more students coming into the university are signing up for science and engineering degrees rather than liberal arts degrees. Students are attracted to these programs because of the financial incentives and job opportunities they can reach. This is especially detrimental to students and faculty within liberal arts programs. It has not been announced what departments will get cut.
What will happen when the cuts are made?
Courses within the different departments will still be offered, but there will be less class periods available meaning the enrollment cap will be increased. Some faculty have argued they won’t get to know their students as well with these changes. Others have complained that courses they like to teach will no longer be available because less students will be signed up for them. With all of the programs being dropped in the foreign language department, some are suspicious cuts will eventually lead into ending entire programs within the liberal arts college.
“Students believe that programs should be fixed, but that is not the case. Programs will become obsolete and there will be new programs that offer more job opportunities and we have to keep pushing forward,” Potter said.
Potter also stated that the school is losing money in the liberal arts college because there are more professors to teach the classes then there are students in the programs and that results in a loss of revenue for the university.
Students and faculty have questioned the idea of the Coborn Plaza Apartment complex that is a part of the campus student housing. The apartments are around $700 a month per resident and not a lot of students have moved into them. It has cost the university millions of dollars for empty revenue.
“We have a 10-year lease with Coborn Plaza and we signed it right before the financial crisis in 2008. We cannot just back out of a lease in order to save the athletic department or academic programs, that would be against the law,” Potter said.
The amount of students living in Coborn Plaza has only reached a 75 percent instead of the 95 percent that was predicted when the apartments were built.
Student’s Reaction to Budget Cuts
Two polls issued by the University Chronicle show that 50 percent who answered think budget cuts are necessary and the other half does not.
“If more students paid attention to what is going and stopped pointing the finger at whoever they think is causing the problems, we would have a lot more effective flow of information about why there need to be cuts made,” Potter said. Another poll shows that most students are aware that budget cuts are happening, but they don’t really know what they can do about it.