OHIO Colleges try to stem more funding cuts
Ohio State University raised tuition 9.3 percent.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- State budget cuts are affecting Ohio's public colleges and universities more disproportionately than other state agencies, the chairwoman of the Ohio Board of Regents said.
Any more cuts would be devastating to Ohio's public higher education system, according to Dr. Jeanette Grasselli Brown.
"There's already been very significant cuts," Brown said Wednesday as she tried to ward off more spending cuts.
"Additional cuts would be a real concern to us."
Shortfall in budget: Brown told the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee that spending cuts ordered by Gov. Bob Taft as part of a plan to plug a projected $1.5 billion shortfall in the state's two-year $45 billion budget disproportionately affects higher education.
In an executive order last month, Taft ordered 6 percent budget cuts at most state agencies, including the Board of Regents.
The Senate finance committee is considering a House-passed measure to close the projected shortfall.
Some agencies, such as the Department of Education, were exempt from the governor's budget cuts, while other agencies sustained smaller percentage cuts.
For the regents, whose appropriation this budget year was $2.5 billion, the cut amounted to about $121 million. That's more than 50 percent of the $223.4 million in cuts ordered by the governor in the fiscal year that ends in June.
Because of reduced funding from the state, many state campuses are being forced to raise tuition.
"Increases to tuition is all we've got left," Brown said.
"Raising tuition is a last resort."
Raise at OSU: At Ohio State University in Columbus, trustees decided to raise tuition this fall 9.3 percent, said William J. Napier, a lobbyist for OSU.
About 800 jobs at Ohio State could be lost, mainly through attrition, Napier said. The university has also dipped into its cash reserves, using $5 million of its "rainy-day" fund.
Public colleges and universities throughout Ohio have implemented similar measures, Brown said.
"We've dug as deep as we can," said Brown.
State Sen. Bill M. Harris, an Ashland County Republican and vice chairman of the committee, asked Brown what other measures have been done at colleges and universities to hold down costs.
Colleges have also instituted hiring freezes and entered joint purchasing agreements to cut costs, she said.
"We've done as much as we can," Brown reiterated.
Budget details: The House passed the budget package Oct. 31. It includes the closing of so-called tax loopholes and use of some of the state's $1 billion budget stabilization account. The package also calls for borrowing some of the state's share of the national tobacco settlement.
A Senate vote on the package is expected next week.