With level funding proposed last week, cuts placed across the university in recent years are still impacting its operations.
“The cuts that we’ve taken from the state have been just historically devastating. They’ve been much greater than any of us anticipated and it’s taken really serious measures to deal with that,” said Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Anthony Wagner.
Numerous state budget cuts were put into place in recent years, which resulted in Temple’s appropriation being cut significantly. Since fiscal year 2009, the university’s operating budget, which specifically services undergraduate and graduate education, has been reduced by $113 million.
“It’s been a very significant cut,” Wagner said.
Temple is not the only university in Pennsylvania that has experienced such cut backs. The three other state-related schools, Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University, as well as the 14 state universities have all had to deal with similar cut backs.
Temple’s administration has made it a point to earn back and make up for the lost revenue. As a result, campus-wide cut backs have been made in order to achieve this goal. Wagner explained that the administration has made it a top priority to keep the student body from having to deal with the burden of additional debts by increasing tuition.
“We’re concerned about making sure we’re doing everything we can do to hold down costs and not raising tuition and providing as much financial aid as possible to help students stay in school and continue to make progress toward their degrees and graduate,” Wagner said.
Investing in fundraising operations geared toward the Temple community and alumni will draw more money into the university so revenue is not solely coming from tuition, Wagner said.
“We’ve definitely had to re-prioritize [and question], ‘What are the things that are most important for us to continue to do and what are those things that makes sense for us to cut back so that we can hold the tuition increase to as low as possible?’” Wagner said.
The university publication of The Temple Times was one of those that needed to be “re-prioritized” by these cuts.
“We’re a rarity now that we even publish a monthly [paper],” said Assistant Vice President for University Communications Ray Betzner.
He said a hand full of Pennsylvania’s universities have eliminated publications completely and this cut on distribution was put into place nearly 18 months ago because of the budget cuts that have accumulated within the last four years. Though these cuts were “hard to make,” it was one that was necessary to allow room for other resources that were truly needed by the university.
Betzner said the goal of these decisions is to lessen the burden on students.
“In each one of those years, we make decisions about what to do to keep us within budget so we don’t have to raise tuition,” Betzner said.
Wagner added that these decisions and sacrifices would benefit Temple in the long run.
Another decision that the university made because of the budget situation is that pay increases were not made available to any employee of the university. This fact has been made well aware to the administration and they do not take it for granted when conversing with faculty or when dealing with matters of the university’s budget, Wagner said.
Also, most educational travels for faculty have been eliminated as a result of the cuts. These purely educational travels allow teachers and faculty to stay current with the happenings in their field and apply them to both their teachings and their classrooms. Wagner admitted that all departments across Temple’s campus have been affected by this fact in some way.
“That’s not something to take lightly, because faculty need to have exposure to other folks in their field that are creating new knowledge,” Wagner said. “I think everybody has shared the sacrifice.”
Wagner said that the university’s various resource branches have “really tried to tighten our belts” so that the academic side will not be too troubled and continue to focus on students’ education.
“We have tried to have [cut backs] disproportionately hit administration versus the schools and colleges and the academic mission,” Wagner said.
In regards to how faculty and the university as a whole are handling these cuts, Wagner said that there has been consistent, “pro-active” responses, to it and that no department is being privileged or taken advantage of by these cuts; it’s an equal burden.
Looking ahead, Temple’s investments and fundraising efforts have gone to improving buildings and student life on Main Campus. Putting the students first is a philosophy that is at the core at what the administration is trying to do in dealing with these budget cuts, Wagner said.
“Our sacrifice is in the service of thriving, not surviving. If we can get through this difficult time, Temple has a very bright future ahead of it,” he said.
Addy Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.