Just when you thought Western Carolina University had suffered enough from state budget cuts, think again. The 2009-2010 school year at Western sustained many budgets cuts in the past year and it may be quite some time until this changes.
The UNC school system’s budget was cut nearly $300 million in the past year and changes were definitely noticeable, such as class sizes crept up in number and some classes offered before were no longer available. Facilities such as the tennis courts also no longer provided lighting at night, and the dining halls cut hours to save money.
The state was also forced to cut over 900 jobs in the school system because of the budget. All of this affects the university and its mission drastically considering Western is a small school that prides itself on small class sizes and a more personal feel between faculty and students.
Western’s mission will continue to suffer if plans fall accordingly for the 2010-2011 school year. North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue’s proposed budget includes a further 5.9 percent cut that totals another $154,626,000 from the previous budget. This means that Western’s budget would have to compensate another $4,200,000 in order to make ends meet, according to Chuck Wooten, Associate Vice Chancellor for Finance.
The school systems would also be asked to cut over 1,200 faculty members. 17 of these faculty members would come from Western meaning a loss of 138 class sections and 3,503 erased seats for students who want to enroll in those classes.
So how is Western Carolina going afford all of this and still provide the same quality of education that it promises?
“We are trying to protect the core mission. However, as the cuts continue, that will be increasingly difficult,” said Chancellor John Bardo. “We have been making plans on how to deal with cuts for the last year. We did not just react to the Governor’s budget recommendations. We hope to continue to minimize the cuts to core programs through that process of planning and action.”
It certainly seems that the school’s mission is going to be quite altered after this year’s cuts. The school maintained minimal classroom growth in the most recent budget cuts, but it seems inevitable that this cut will have by far the largest change.
“Every year cuts get more difficult. We have made all the easy cuts and most of those were very difficult,” said Bardo. “I am concerned that the impact at WCU and across the state will be to lower quality and make it much more difficult for the system to serve the students of the state”.
So, for all the WCU students here in Cullowhee, prepare for what looks like another drastic budget cut. Remember, ways to avoid the problems from the cuts would be to sign up for classes as soon as you meet your advisor to avoid class fill-ups and also to ensure courses are not cancelled because enough people are not signed up, and check for the availability of courses and make sure you have the correct courses numbers for your degree.