USC details budget cut plans

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The University of South Carolina plans to eliminate about a quarter of its part-time faculty contracts as it deals with $39 million in budget cuts.

For now, the school doesn't plan furloughs or tuition increases despite more spending reductions expected later this week for the 12-campus system, President Harris Pastides said Monday.

"The cuts that our university system is taking are cumulative and recurring, amounting to $39.9 million thus far and creating a budget crisis for us that is real and dire," Pastides said. "The cuts are deep, painful and they are affecting every campus."

But the brunt of the reductions stay in Columbia, where the main campus and USC medical school lose nearly $32 million, or 17 percent of their budgets. Cuts are deepest at USC-Beaufort, which loses 24 percent with a $689,343 cut.

And more cuts are expected.

On Thursday, the state's budget oversight board is expected to prune at least 4 percent across the board from the $6 billion budget. But Pastides said he has already accounted for that bad news in his plans.

USC is hardly alone. In October, the state Legislature sliced more than $23 million from Clemson University's education and public service programs and the state's technical colleges lost $25 million.

It's all come as state sales tax collections plunged amid tax breaks on groceries and rising gas prices that sapped consumer spending in the fall.

At USC, 30 tenured or tenure-track faculty positions out of 1,500 are being trimmed and spring contracts for 100 of more than 400 adjunct or part-time faculty are being slashed. Meanwhile, fewer than 200 of 6,400 staff positions are being cut, said William Moore, the university's vice president for planning.

In all, about $17 million is being saved through academic cuts, Moore said.

Pastides emphasized most of those savings come from not hiring for open positions and the part-time instructors.

The faculty reductions may lead to students having fewer electives available, but Pastides hopes those efforts won't affect students' ability to move toward degrees.

Dr. Bob Best, the Faculty Senate's president who leads the USC's School of Medicine's genetics division, said non-tenured faculty as well as retired faculty who returned to work have borne the brunt of staff reductions, mostly by not having contracts renewed.

Those remaining will teach larger classes, Best said.

And the increased workload has consequences outside the classroom. "I don't know what the impact will be on research and scholarship," Best said.

Travel and raises also are being cut, Pastides said.

Pastides won't rule out closing or curtailing operations at campuses as legislators expect more cuts in the budget being written for the 2010 fiscal year.

"Nothing is off the table. We will be looking at that. But a decision to close a campus would not come easily" and would be based on more than money, he said.

Pastides noted furloughs hurt most for the lowest-paid workers. "And I want to protect those who maintain our campuses, who clean our classrooms, who drive our vehicles to the extent possible," Pastides said.

But he said he won't rule that out in the future and plans to take a one week unpaid furlough himself sometime after the first of the year.

Tuition won't rise through the rest of the school year, Pastides said. "Moreover, I've told our board of trustees that we will try to keep further increases as low as humanly possible and we will not try to offset our loss of state funding with tuition."


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