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Layoffs will be minimal at MSUM

Edna Szymanski

Minnesota State University Moorhead has to cut about $9.5 million from its budget next year, but the president expects to limit layoffs to eight to 15 jobs.

Edna Szymanski said cost-cutting measures the campus started last fall will minimize the layoffs needed, as well as the number of programs that will be cut.

Ten faculty and staff have accepted early retirement packages, and more offers may be made this summer.

Layoff notices will be issued in July, but employees will still have jobs for a period of time that's determined in their union contracts.

For tenured faculty, most will continue to work at MSUM for the next academic year.

The exact amount of the deficit depends on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unallotment, but campus officials expect it will be about

$9.5 million.

About $4.5 million of that is a reduction in state funding. Nearly $5 million is the university's own deficit, caused primarily by declining enrollment and rising costs.

Though the total deficit is on the high end of what MSUM officials began planning for last fall, the cuts aren't going to be as severe as first anticipated, said Jean Hollaar, MSUM's budget director.

MSUM will receive

$4.3 million over the next two years in federal stimulus dollars that will help soften the blow.

The campus plans to use the money to pay for the early retirement packages and to keep tuition increases more reasonable.

MSUM also has aggressively cut costs since last fall. A hiring freeze has left more than 20 positions open, saving at least

$1.4 million.

The university is limiting energy use as much as possible, and plans to set thermostats at 76 this summer.

MSUM also is working on ways to increase revenue, including a proposal to restructure how tuition and fees are charged.

This summer, the campus has revamped its summer session to make it more attractive for students and raise more tuition revenue.

Just one week into the summer session, the strategy appears to be working, said Jean Sando, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Enrollment is up nearly 11 percent over last summer, with 2,069 students registered. The number of classes students are taking also is up.

Those cost-cutting and revenue-building initiatives will help MSUM balance the budget this July.

But Szymanski still faces some tough decisions.

She anticipates having to cut some programs and is still weighing which ones those will be.

Szymanski is looking for programs that affect the fewest number of students and faculty.

She also is weighing whether the program is offered elsewhere in the region or within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and how fiscally efficient the program is.

Szymanski plans to announce what programs will be affected this July.

They will be phased out, not eliminated right away. And the university will work with students to make sure they can complete their degrees or to help them transfer, she said.

"There's no good decision on this. I wish we did not have to close anything," Szymanski said. "It's nasty to be caught in this predicament."