UWA faces significant cuts in state funding

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008

LIVINGSTON &8212; Approximately 80 percent of the students who attend the University of West Alabama receive some kind of financial assistance to attend the four-year public institution. If proposed budget cuts from Gov. Bob Riley are approved, those students may be looking for additional sources of funding to cover the increased cost of tuition.

In preliminary budget figures released at the beginning of the state legislative session, Riley proposed a $6.3 billion education budget, down from $6.7 billion this year. Riley&8217;s proposed budget would cut appropriations for two-year and four-year colleges and K-12 schools to about what they received in fiscal 2007.

Both two-year and four-year colleges are expected to take the brunt of the budgets cuts, with UWA expected to see the largest of the cuts at 17 percent. UWA President Dr. Richard Holland said if the cuts are voted into policy, his institution would need to raise tuition as much as 36 percent. But this is not something Holland wants to do.

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Many blame the recent economic slowdown for a significant loss in tax revenue. Holland says other sources, such as the sky-high cost of energy and food has forced many families to be frugal with their finances.

Complicating the matter at the legislative level is that fact that four-year institutions are expected to bear most of the burden, with K-12 schools seeing only a 2.5 percent loss in income.

Holland, who has been president for six years, said he and his colleagues in higher education are realistic, and expect to see cuts when the economy slows down. But what they did not expect, he said, was such a disparity in which institutions and how much they were cut.

Both Auburn University and the University of Alabama are expected to see a 14 percent cut. Jacksonville State is projecting a 13 percent loss, and both Alabama A & M University and the University of North Alabama expect to see an 11 percent loss.

Holland said there has been no rationale given for why the cuts are organized this way, and what he and his fellow administrators hope to do during the upcoming legislative process to determine budgets is get some equity across the board for higher education institutions.

Alexius White, a senior English major at UWA, has a number of sources of funding for her education including loans, federal grants, scholarships and work-study. Without these financial sources, White said she and her family would be paying for much more of her tuition and costs themselves.

Before any decisions are made, legislators are expected to look at more tax revenues after the Easter holiday. With more numbers to represent the state&8217;s expected economic status, legislators will have to pass an education budget by the time they adjourn their session in May, with education institutions having to have their own budgets approved in June.