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Earlier this week, President John Hitt clearly explained the magnitude of the proposed state budget cuts and how they could impact the UCF community. I’d like to share more details about the seriousness of the budget situation and how we would evaluate our academic programs in light of the proposed cuts.

Budgets currently being debated in the Florida Legislature would remove between $22 million and $57 million from UCF’s budget. Those cuts would be in addition to $54 million that has been removed from UCF’s state funds in the past two years.

As President Hitt wrote, the severity of the latest budget proposals compels us to fundamentally change how we manage the economic crisis. The “financial belt tightening” we have performed so far — leaving vacant positions unfilled, becoming more energy efficient and limiting travel and discretionary spending — is no longer enough.

Even after we use all of our remaining nonrecurring reserve funds, a budget reduction of $57 million would require us to eliminate about 25 academic programs, an action roughly equivalent to eliminating three or more colleges. A reduction of that nature also would result in the elimination of more than 500 faculty and staff positions. A conservative estimate shows that about 15,000 students would be impacted by such cuts.

No decisions have been made, but we are preparing for the worst-case scenario.

I want to be clear that these would be measures of last resort — actions forced upon us by staggering budget cuts during the past two years. UCF’s faculty and staff members have performed incredibly well throughout this financial crisis, and we continue to offer high-quality programs that benefit our students and our community.

Evaluating Programs
Deans and vice presidents are being asked to review their programs and operations based on five primary factors. These factors will help guide us once the budget is finalized.

  • Centrality to UCF’s mission: This addresses a program’s importance to UCF’s overall mission. The key question is: Can you imagine UCF existing without this program?
  • Quality: Some questions to consider include: Are the teaching and research being performed in an exceptional fashion? Are students receiving outstanding service? How does the program benefit our community?
  • Demand: This measures student enrollment and interest in a program and employers’ interest in hiring graduates.
  • Comparative advantage: Some programs provide students an advantage after graduation compared to similar programs at other universities. This also applies to whether a program makes UCF different from and better than other universities.
  • Cost: After considering the factors above, the cost of retaining or eliminating a program is evaluated.

I encourage you to visit the Budget Resource Center to learn more and to offer suggestions and feedback.

Please know that our actions will be determined largely by the size of our budget cut. The Florida Legislature is working to reach a budget agreement by May 1. If that is not possible, legislators will extend the lawmaking session until an agreement can be reached. The 2009-10 fiscal year begins July 1.

I assure you that we will evaluate our programs carefully and thoroughly with the interests of our students, faculty and staff members and community in mind. This economy has spared no one, and I empathize with the personal hardships many of our faculty and staff members are already enduring.

If we have to move forward with layoffs, we will do so with respect and compassion for all.