Making the cut
How budget cuts will affect incoming freshmen
On July 30, as the sun extends its rays to the right of the Joe Crowley Student Union, a few scattered incoming freshmen drift toward the Jot Travis Building, Room 100, where welcoming orientation ceremonies are held. Others emerge from Argenta Hall.
The students still float in the strange purgatory between high school and college, where they are only vaguely attached to any institution of learning, but there is a malaise in the air. One attendee, Sean Delaplain, an incoming University of Nevada, Reno freshman from McQueen High School, is concerned with the tuition increase that accompanies the university’s recent 15 percent budget cut, which reduced UNR’s funding by $33 million.
“I remember signing up my junior year for a class up here,” says Delaplain. “It was for chemistry, which was probably $180, and now it’s getting up to $200 and $250 per class. It’ll be OK, because of the Millennium [Scholarship]. But I’ll definitely have to take money out from somewhere that I probably wouldn’t have had to.”
Will Kandaras, also from McQueen, shares Delaplain’s worry.
“[I’m concerned that] more classes will be cut,” he says. “Or the cost of college will skyrocket, making college more of an elitist entity than it already is.”
Protect and serve
In June, state regents approved increasing tuition by 5 percent. This is expected to produce an additional $500,000, which will be used to stave off the budget cuts, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Among the results of this is a glut of new applications for financial aid, 1,000 more than the previous year, according to Sandy Guidry, director of financial aid and scholarships.
“The negative part is that each student may not receive as much money as they would have a year ago,” says Guidry. “Our pot of money goes up a little bit because hopefully enrollment grows, but it’s not growing enough to accommodate 2,000 more requests.”
Provost Marc Johnson assures, however, that the academic quality of the university remains intact, even under the weight of cuts.
“We are trying to protect the core teaching and research functions of the university,” says Johnson. “Specialized centers of excellence have been hit more … the student services have been hit more that aren’t directly related to teaching.”
Johnson also specified that athletics and auxiliary functions of the university, such as the Agricultural Experiment Station, have received greater cuts than teaching operations.
Student Services is coping by offering the same material through different, less expensive venues.
“We’re eliminating some services and replacing them with narrower offerings online,” says vice president of Student Services Shannon Ellis.
Ellis used the online Career Navigator (www.unr.edu/cn/) as a primary example of providing the same services while cutting the personal element.
“I think the personal piece is still getting coaching in your major,” she says. “I think students will continue to use that, but Student Services won’t be offering that component.”
Johnson also says that the ability to take courses required to both start and finish at UNR will be unaffected.
“Some of the classes will be larger in size than they have been in the past,” he says.
Johnson used Math 120, fundamental college mathematics, as an example. The class had 17 sections originally but will be cut down to four.
“They’ll be larger, but [freshmen] will only be in the large section twice a week, and then they’ll have a breakout section,” he says. “So they’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and get their answers.”
Larger class sizes will be felt in each of the colleges.
“For an engineering curriculum, which requires in several instances small size courses to enhance the students’ learning of engineering fundamentals, this is not an ideal situation,” says Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering. “Nevertheless, we have managed to offer all of our courses.”
Tutoring opportunities have also significantly changed, but the university is working to provide the same essential services in different ways, according to Johnson.
“We had to close our math center and writing center,” he says. “But in their place we have created tutoring assistance for freshmen English classes and freshmen math classes, so our freshmen will still have access to tutoring, and that’s being paid for by a special course fee.”
The Writing Center tutored between 5,500 and 6,500 students per year, according to Mark Waldo, former director of the center.
“These students came from [on rough average] 550 different classes at all levels of instruction—first year through PhD,” he says. “I think the university has lost a very effective program, independent of any one department, which ably served a vast number of student writers from all academic departments.”
Erik Stabile, a former employee of the Writing Center, thinks the university has lost something essential with the center’s closing.
“I feel like it’s a huge blow to UNR, not only for the students but for the university’s status,” he says. “It seems that it’s pretty unheard of for a university to not have a writing center. And our writing center helped a lot of, not only local students, but international students, as well.”
According to Heather Hardy, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a replacement will be available.
“For the biennium, we are providing writing tutoring for freshmen through the Core Writing Tutoring Studio voluntarily organized by members of the Department of English and funded by course fees in first-year writing courses,” she says.
Johnson also says the majors are, for the most part, untouched by the budget cuts.
“We’re converting the German language major to a German studies major, so that’s a slight modification but it only affected 11 students,” he says. “The rest of the majors are unaffected. We haven’t closed any programs as a result of the budget cuts.”
Still, many faculty positions have been lost.
“We protected our long-term, full-time faculty positions to the extent that we could and we’re reducing substantially our part-time temporary instructors,” says Johnson. “So our regular full-time instructors will be teaching more students in each class, but that gives us the advantage of our students, sometimes freshmen, having a greater probability that they’ll be taught by a person who’s experienced in the application of their science or their art than previously.”
The loss of faculty members has hit many departments significantly.
“The College [of Engineering] has lost two faculty [members]: one from mechanical engineering and the other from civil and environmental engineering,” says Maragakis. “Both of these departments have high enrollments and high research productivity and operate with a small number of faculty. Therefore, these losses are major.”
“We lost eight faculty positions and one classified position through retirements and resignations,” says William Sparkman, dean of the College of Education. “These positions are closed and will not be refilled.”
“We lost nearly 20 faculty positions and several staff positions in the budget cuts,” says Hardy. “Our operating budgets took a permanent 5 percent cut.”
Each of the deans interviewed said that all losses and cuts were made with the intent of keeping the academic core of their programs intact.
“It’s been an absolute principle from a year ago when we started thinking about budget reductions,” says Johnson. “We wanted students to have the opportunity to come here, select a major of their choice and still finish their degree in four years, and that opportunity has not been lost.”