Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
Several of you have made inquiries about the various issues we are facing in higher education, especially those rising to the attention of the media and legislative coverage. This e-mail response is to tell you what I know and what we continue to address on your behalf. I wish I had more concrete information to provide to you, but there is much that remains unresolved.
With the continuing financial difficulties for higher education, the media have covered many of the strategies various campuses are contemplating to cover the budget deficits, including possible layoffs from the University of Tennessee System and at other campuses within the Tennessee Board of Regents system. In addition to the budget issues and the Chancellor’s search, there are bills being filed in the State Legislature regarding governance of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee System, and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
First, I want to reiterate that the Governor has not yet made his budget presentation to the State Legislature. Without a budget and without knowing how the Governor and the State Legislature will allocate the funds from the federal stimulus package, we do not have resolution to the University of Memphis’ final budget reductions and how they will be addressed with State appropriations.
Second, regarding personnel, we are the only campus to date to have formulated and used a Voluntary Buy Out fund for faculty and staff. We also are retaining vacant positions to address the reductions in personnel. Our goal remains to keep all of our remaining employees at the University of Memphis employed. We also will continue to be energetic in generating new revenue and vigilant in reducing expenditures.
Third, in these difficulty financial times, tuition and fees remain a concern for us and for students and their families. We are actively pursuing increases in the Hope Lottery Scholarships program, federal funding in support of Pell Grants, work-study and other programs. We have recommended to the Tennessee Board of Regents that, if the tuition cap is removed, this removal be phased in over a five year period. We are also pursuing the possibility of discounts for students taking over 12 hours while still assisting part-time students with their tuition costs. The Regents final decision is not expected until after the Legislature has approved the State’s budget, probably in June.
Fourth, after Chancellor Manning announced his retirement, a search began for his replacement. However, with the continuing decline in the financial picture for the State, the Regents discontinued the search and Chancellor Manning has been asked to remain in his position for another one to two years.
Finally, bills have been filed about governance of all of higher education in Tennessee. We expect these to be debated vigorously in the Legislature. Our role will be to provide information to the Governor and any legislator, committee or task force investigating governance possibilities.
After reading the message above, I hope you realize that we are engaged in the discussions at every level in an attempt to influence the outcomes with information and feedback to the various policy and governance groups.
What all of us at the University of Memphis must do is stay the course. We must continue recruiting, enrolling and retaining more students. We must provide them the best educational opportunities we can provide and go over and beyond the call of duty in helping them to achieve their educational goals. We have an extraordinary University and, as an educational community, want to assist our students and support each other.
Thank you for the leadership of the Faculty Senate and President Ed Perry, the Staff Senate and President Susan Babb, and the Student Government Association and President Abby Hagan. We will continue to provide opportunities for discussion and feedback to them and to you.
Shirley C. Raines