On April 9, a budget freeze went into effect at Western Carolina, placing a hold on state-issued funds.
The state previously contributed funds to many sectors of the University, but now there will only be a weekly allotment for payroll, financial aid, and utilities. WCU will now depend on discretionary accounts and trust funds (which are minimal in comparison to past state appropriations) to cover all additional costs. The hold has created a domino effect, forcing the University to use already dwindling internal funds to cover operational costs.
This is only the latest in economic woes for the University. Back in September, Chancellor John Bardo announced a possible 3-5% cut in state funds. That cut is already in effect, and has additionally called for the reversion of funds previously allotted.
The result of all this is a time of economic concern that Western has not seen for possibly decades. As Dr. Angela Grube, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs explained, “I’ve heard a lot of people who have worked here 30 years say that they’ve never seen anything this bad.”
The University is already exercising budget restraint in order to deal with these issues. All requests for funds that fall outside of classroom instruction must be denied. Field trips, research presentations, and fine arts performances have been cancelled. New shipments of office supplies cannot be ordered unless there is a campus-wide need.
Faculty members have also suffered the effects of the budget strain. Many one-year contracts could not be renewed for the next academic year. As a result of this, caps on the number of students per class have been raised slightly.
In an interview on Wednesday, Apr. 21, Dr. Grube explained the quality of education here at Western would not be compromised as a result of budget cuts. She also explained that students should not be concerned if they see new faces next semester; the University will not use cuts to offer new positions. Any new faculty will be added to fill existing open positions.
When asked how budget cuts would affect Western’s Quality Enhancement Program (QEP), Dr. Grube stressed that although the QEP is primarily funded by the frozen state funds, Western will continue its commitment to the program.
The current state budget freeze is temporary and will most likely be in effect until the beginning of the fiscal year. Although cuts will still be a concern, tensions will be lessened by the addition of state funds.
Until then, students can be supportive of Western by conserving utilities, staying informed, and engaging administration in open dialogue. Dr. Grube emphasized that administration would be open to hearing students voices concerning cuts, and would react if possible. She expressed gratitude to the student body for being tremendously supportive and involved. She urges student to ask questions of the administration, read updates from the Chancellor and Provost, and to continue to have classroom discussions about these issues.