Last Wednesday, the University of Tulsa announced several university-wide cuts and changes to save money. Some will go into effect immediately, while others will occur after examination of the school’s budget.
43 non-faculty positions will be cut, and a hiring freeze will be in effect for all open, non-endowed university positions, meaning that 19 currently vacant positions will not be filled. The university’s highest paid employees may volunteer for salary reductions ranging from 6 percent to 20 percent.
Employee benefits will also be affected by the cuts. Beginning in October, the university will temporarily suspend retirement contributions for all current employees. As of next year, TU will no longer pay for long-term disability insurance coverage.
Other changes to operations are being discussed in hopes of making the university more efficient. Changes to environmental controls in buildings, alternative energy sources and deliveries of services to off-campus sites are all being examined. Various departments may also engage in non-personnel cost saving measures.
President Upham Steadman blamed several factors for the cuts in a letter to faculty. Competing for a “shrinking number of highly qualified students” has been difficult for the university. The “lingering effects of the 2009 economic downturn and a slumping energy sector are putting greater pressure on U.S. family income,” he said. He cited students needing increasing amounts of financial aid, which the university cannot keep up with. The university, however, has raised tuition annually since 1998.
Students were surprised by the news, as the university did not notify them directly about these issues. Sean Townsend wondered “if there was anything else you could cut besides employes,” but believed, like others interviewed, that the university had tried other solutions first. “Personally, I feel like it’s wrong,” he said, “but maybe they had to.” As an engineer, Katie Killen worries it may affect her senior project, as her professor noted they do not have a big budget for the project. “The projects might be at a disadvantage because there’s not enough money to pay for certain amounts of the project,” she said.
According to Upham, TU is not the only school undergoing these changes. “It appears that most of the trends we are seeing now will become a permanent part of our operating environment,” he said, leaving students to wonder how the changes will affect them in the future.