The budget storm may not have completely passed over the Utah System of Higher Education as projections for further reductions are being made.
In talks with legislative staff members, Commissioner William Sederburg said he's been asked to provide scenarios of what could happen to the state's 10 public colleges and universities if additional 5 percent and 10 percent cuts were handed down on top of reductions already ordered.
So far, the system has been asked to come up with 5.5 percent in the current fiscal year, hitting some schools harder than others.
The governor on Thursday proposed an additional 1.1 percent cut, with a 7.5 percent cut proposed for the following year, if the economy continues to sag. However, half of the 7.5 percent would supposedly be backfilled with one-time funding from the Legislature.
"The squeeze is on in higher education," Sederburg said.
If the cuts indeed go deeper, an additional 5 percent would mean layoffs for at least 500 faculty and staff members at higher education institutions statewide, Sederburg told the Board of Regents on Friday during a regularly scheduled meeting at the University of Utah.
Along with job cuts, it is believed that 500 students would have to go without state-offered financial aid subsidies. Schools would be forced to rely more on adjunct faculty, and concurrent enrollment programs could be reduced.
Legislative staff members are proposing a 10 percent budget cut for the fiscal year that begins next July, which would involve laying off an estimated 1,000 employees, cutting off 900 financial aid recipients and maybe eliminating weaker programs and departments.
"It's a very uncertain time and a controversial time," Sederburg said.
The higher education system would have to come up with nearly $74 million to make up for the loss in 2010. Sederburg said he does not support passing the buck to students.
To make up for the possible cuts, tuition would have to see a 31 percent average increase, "which is just not something we're willing to do," he said.
Meanwhile, public education in kindergarten through 12th grade is being spared in the talks of depleting funds.
With enrollment numbers on the rise in higher education and dollar availability falling, Sederburg said the regents and other advocates "need to be active and engaged in the debate."Sederburg and the regents have been rallying support from lawmakers statewide, holding various meetings at local institutions, hoping to prove that the state needs to maintain a strong investment in Utah's future graduates.