As a 10 percent decrease in state funding casts a shadow over next year’s budget, University officials are already planning ways to maintain current standards with less help from Lansing.
In anticipation of the decrease, University Provost Paul Courant met with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs yesterday to discuss possible ways in which the University can keep its academic quality with a smaller budget.
The governor’s proposal, if passed by the state, will result in about a $36.4 million cut in the University’s budget, Courant said. He added that the actual amount of the budget cut may be different if and when the bill gets passed, as the budget office is planning for the case of a cut larger than $36.4 million.
“That is the governor’s proposal,” he said. “Things can change in the legislative process.”
Furthermore, the administration may offer certain classes less often in order to have fewer class times with more students in each class, Courant said. “We may have to cutback on tutoring for students having academic difficulty,” he added.
But SACUA focused most of its attention yesterday on the possibility of changing healthcare benefits offered to University employees. With the costs of providing medical treatment to faculty members increasing dramatically each year, it will be under serious consideration for cutting costs, Courant said.
“Our healthcare and prescription drug costs are doubling every five years,” he added. “That is not sustainable.”
The ways employee medical benefit plans will change is still unclear, but there is the possibility of charging staff members a co-premium for insurance costs, Courant said. He added that the University will still have a benefit plan comparable to other universities even after cost cutting.
Despite changes in faculty healthcare, “Our healthcare plans should be competitive in the marketplace,” he said.
Associate philosophy Prof. Jason Stanley said the medical plans offered by the University are an attractive factor in faculty recruitment. “One can imagine a situation in which drastic enough changes would be a factor though,” he added.
But cutting healthcare costs to help the budget is a desirable alternative to other methods like cutting employment, Stanley said.
“If done modestly, I can imagine this being better than eliminating vacant faculty lines,” he said.
Budget cuts have already been underway for the past few years, Courant said, but the majority of funding constrictions will be felt in the fall.
Courant said the University should expect to see noticeable changes by September.