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College of Science and Engineering to offer fewer course sections to manage deficit

The College of Science and Engineering Dean, Ian Davison, is confident that the college can manage the budget deficit without making department cuts.

In response to the $14 million budget deficit, Central Michigan University administrators announced that each academic college should plan for a budget reduction. Instead of making cuts, Davison said they are going to manage with less revenue by working more carefully with the departments to eliminate course sections that receive low enrollment.

“We have done an analysis of our (general education) courses we offer and we discovered that this academic year — last fall plus this spring — we have 3,000 vacant seats in sections,” he said. “We are going to be more careful in how we manage the number of sections so that students can still get the courses they need.

“Obviously if you have that many vacant seats you can reduce the number of sections, and that means we don’t have to pay as many fixed-term faculty or graduate students.”

Most general education classes are taught by fixed-term faculty. Davison said there is more frequent turnover with fixed-term faculty because they leave for other jobs that can offer a tenure track position.

The College of Science and Engineering has never been in a situation where they have had to lay off professors, Davison said.

The dean said he prioritizes thinking about how to make adjustments within the college without damaging the programs, as enrollment and revenue fluctuates.

“In the event that we had to make cuts, they would not be across the board cuts,” Davison said. “Everybody likes that because it seems fair, but it doesn’t really reflect the reality.”

Davison explained that making cuts to a rapidly growing program would have a bigger impact on the college than reducing expense in less profitable or less popular programs.

Students may notice decreased sections when those courses fill faster during class registration. But Davison said it makes the most sense to cut back on sections when they can entirely fill one classroom instead of having empty seats in multiple sections of a class.

The college does not have any upcoming plans to search for new faculty, unless there is a vacancy that must be filled, he said.

In more fruitful times, Davison said the college was able to invest in resources for students. For example, it developed five active learning classrooms for students, which were approximately a million dollars per room.

“We will not be accumulating that money this year, that is for sure,” Davison said. “I expect this is a temporary downturn and we will readjust and be back to business as usual."

Davison said he wants the students to know the deficit and related setbacks should not affect their educational experience.