Higher tuition and a shorter work week were among the proposed budget cutbacks outlined by University of Montana President George Dennison on Monday.
The president, who announced his pending retirement in the same speech, called the campus together to discuss how the university proposes to scale back spending and increase revenue in response to dwindling state and federal dollars over the next three years.
Ideas may include moving to a four-day work week, increasing the cost per credit for part-time students and raising tuition.
UM has been looking at ways to cut the budget in the next biennium, but recently released gloomier-than-expected state revenue projections require possible reductions this year, Dennison said.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer earlier called for many state agencies to find ways cut their general fund budgets by 5 percent this year. For UM, that means somewhere between $500,000 and $2.2 million in fiscal year 2011.
"Whatever we do now will in all likelihood remain permanent and we will need to consider carefully the possible impacts for the 2013 biennium," he said.
Dennison proposed decreasing expenses by $1.35 million and increasing revenue another $6.5 million - totaling $7.85 million in base adjustments over the next three years.
Dennison called for a 1 percent increase in resident student tuition in each of the next three years. That would yield $900,000 - more if enrollment continues to increase.
"We have kept increases in tuition low by comparison to other institutions during the last few years," Dennison said.
"Nevertheless, under the existing circumstances, I do not believe we can fulfill our commitment to students and the academic programs without modest increases in tuition."
Part-time students may pay more per credit. Presently, full-time students taking 12 to 21 credits pay the same price. Under the new proposal, anyone taking nine to 21 credits would pay the same price.
Just under 1,000 students take between nine and 11 credits. A person currently taking nine credits, for example, would pay $240 more under the new proposal.
Anyone taking eight or fewer credits would be charged based on a sliding fee scale in the hope of encouraging students to take heavier class loads.
If implemented, nearly 1,500 part-time students attending Missoula's main campus would pay more. It would not, however, apply to Missoula's College of Technology. This would generate $1.5 million in revenue in the next three years.
Dennison also recommended that the Board of Regents recalculate how general fund money is divided among the state's colleges and universities. Presently, colleges with swelling enrollment numbers each year - such as UM - don't get additional state dollars.
He said the state must more equitably tie funding to individual students, money that would follow them wherever they enroll. This would generate $1 million annually.
Dennison also recommended ways to cut costs. All of the proposals are ones that UM administrators have mentioned before, such as moving to a four-day work week wherever appropriate.
This includes academic programs, Dennison said. Savings could amount to $450,000 over the next three years.
Allowing jobs to go dark where appropriate over the next two and a half years, reducing overtime and extra-compensation pay coming from the general fund, and reducing non-essential travel also were mentioned.
"We will succeed only if everyone contributes to the effort," Dennison said. "We must meet student needs or see our situation worsen, just as failure to pay attention to research and graduate education will produce a similar result."
While the proposals are real, they require a stamp of approval from the Board of Regents. The regents have yet to ask the campuses around the state for additional budget-cutting proposals, but the board will hold a public conference call on Thursday to discuss the very matter.
Obviously, the timeline for budget cuts has been moved up, said Sheila Stearns, commissioner of higher education. The proposal will likely be discussed at the March regents meeting, she said.
Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.