Officials announce final cuts


SDSU faced harsh realities last week when university officials announced an onslaught of upcoming cuts and changes made to balance the university’s budget for fiscal year 2012 in response to a 10 percent reduction in state appropriations.

The mood on campus “reflects the weather,” SDSU President David Chicoine said during a conference call on a dreary and wet April 14.

Chicoine said the reduction in state appropriations will have a noticeable impact on the university, including layoffs, department closures, reorganization, elimination of academic programs in the continuous quest to drive down costs.

This is the third consecutive year of substantial cuts in state appropriations to the university, the Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural Experiment Station.

“The university will look different next year. Because of the reset to the state’s budget, the university cannot sustain business as usual,” Chicoine said.

The cuts and structural changes were the result of a complete and thorough process led by Provost Laurie Nichols working with the deans that involved faculty, staff, students, external constituents and university administrators, Chicoine said.

The university is faced with a $1.85 million cut in state appropriations based on the 10 percent reduction in state funds and the South Dakota Board of Regents’ recent decision to increase tuition and fees by 6.9 percent. The university also has unavoidable costs to cover and transitional costs. The total – including the net cut, unavoidable costs and transition funding – is $3.825 million.

Program and administrative adjustments account for 84.6 percent of the $3.825 million. Reorganization is 3.8 percent, and the remaining 11.6 percent will be realized through efficiencies. The impact is 65.4 percent to academic programs and 34.6 percent in administration.

Unavoidable costs include the loss of federal funding for the financial aid office, lost tuition revenue from programs being eliminated, the need to fully fund the College of Nursing and resources to meet The Higher Learning Commission accreditation requirements. Investments are also needed for the student success model, student orientation and enhanced Web development. Transitional resources will be needed to fund the phase-outs of academic programs the next two years.

“We remain committed to the core mission as South Dakota’s land-grant university and to providing the best possible academic experience for students,” Chicoine said. “The deans in their work have made every effort to lessen the impact on students; unfortunately, the reduced state support for the third year in a row means that class sizes and student-to-faculty ratios will increase.”

In terms of academic programs, the College of Engineering took large cuts. The master’s degree program in physics was eliminated along with baccalaureate degrees in engineering physics, electronics engineering technology, manufacturing engineering technology, and career and technical education while the software engineering program is suspended. The Department of Physics will move to the College of Engineering.

Two program specialization were also eliminated: the journalism degree’s media production specialization, and the specialization in park management within the undergraduate degree in park and recreation management.

According to the Nichols, 233 students are enrolled in the soon-to-be-eliminated programs. Chicoine said the university has an “obligation” to those students and will work with them.

“They need the opportunity to finish their degrees,” Chicoine said.

The College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences also received cuts and restructuring.

The college’s Department of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks will be eliminated. A new department within the college, the Department of Natural Resources, will incorporate elements from the horticulture, forestry, landscape and parks, wildlife and fisheries sciences, biology, and animal and range sciences programs.

Ag-Bio Communications, a service department within the college, along with its nine employees will also be eliminated.

“..part of the staff will be gone at the end of the fiscal year in June, while others will continue until October,” said Lowell Haag, director and production manager for Ag-Bio Communications.

Ag-Bio Communications is responsible for packaging information to be dispersed throughout South Dakota. Nichols said the work done by the Ag-Bio Communication will be distributed to the basic structure of the university, moving to University Relations, Office of Information Technology and the new production studio that will be located in Yeagar Hall.

The Ag Experiment Station also was hit by the budget reductions. Sites in Miller and Highmore will be closed along with two service units: the Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory and the Olson Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory.

“We’ve been kind of in a state of total shock,” Nancy Thiex said referring to the 17 total employees terminated with the closing of the OAASL, a professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences and the laboratory manager.

As a result all the reductions six full-time university faculty positions have been moved from 12-month to 9-month contracts, while 69 faculty research positions in Agricultural Experiment Station 30 faculty positions in Cooperative Extension

Service have been moved from 12-month to 10-month contracts.

Fifty-five employees received layoff notices in the past seven business days —14 from the university, 31 within the Agricultural Experiment Station and 10 from Cooperative Extension Service offices on campus. Another 27 positions will be eliminated through vacancies, and 8.8 retirements will be part of the overall reductions, bringing the overall number of positions eliminated to 90.8.

Another 99 employees laid off from the Cooperative Extension Service as part of a reorganization that takes effect in October. The restructuring plan calls for SDSU Extension to establish seven regional extension centers across the state staffed by extension field specialists, a new job classification. Extension educators will no longer be located in county extension offices, and the position of educator will cease to exist. Current appointments for all county extension educators will terminate on Oct. 21 following the conclusion of the 4-H year, Achievement Days and State Fair.

Though 99 people have been let go, only 17 job positions have been deleted. With the restructuring, 82 positions will need to be filled, and a national search will be conducted.

The Fiscal Year 2012 budget marks the third consecutive year state general funds to higher education have been cut by South Dakota’s state government. For the Board of Regents, the cut is $27.8 million since Fiscal Year 2009, a 15.6 percent reduction. State funding over the same period has been cut more than $1.7 million to AES and more than $1.2 million for CES.

Emma DeJong and Kristine Young contributed to this report.