EDITORIAL: Pay attention to budget cuts while you can

On Jan. 19, President Jim Abbott held a forum to announce the obvious: Budget cuts are coming. These cuts could mean elimination of programs, will mean continued hiring freezes, and even higher student-to-teacher ratios. Even as these changes are looming, students just don’t seem to care, though these changes will be affecting them for years to come.

South Dakota faces a structural budget deficit of $32 million for the Fiscal Year 2011 and the deficit could grow into the $100 million mark by Fiscal Year 2012. Abbott expects the money USD receives from the legislature in the form of General Funds will be cut by 5-10 percent.

If the cuts are deep enough, low-enrollment programs could be eliminated. Years of work on a major or minor will be erased with a few swift strokes of the pen. Programs in desperate need of new classes and teachers will continue to be under-funded. USD is generally known as a low-tuition school, but if these cuts are made from the wrong places, we’ll be just plain cheap.

It’s not as though there isn’t an outlet for being involved in the budget process. Abbott has been trying to get input from all corners to figure out where these $2.5-5 million in cuts should come from, but few students have contributed.

His budget forum, which had very few students who weren’t reporting for The Volante, was recorded and is still available online under the MyU Portal. One bright spot is that students have taken advantage of the section for submitting suggestions on how to cut the budget. Unfortunately, they have mainly been suggestions that will only make a difference at the margins. Their suggestions of energy conservation and salary cuts will only do so much.

Apathy has been the rule of thumb when dealing with these budget cuts, but no more. Economic times are tough, but students need to have a say in where the budget axe falls. For anyone who cares about their program and doesn’t want to see USD become known for being cheap instead of affordable, do something. E-mail President Abbott, attend one of his forums, make suggestions, make your voices heard. Your tuition dollars are at stake.

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