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Winter 2003

Tech Budget Cuts Impact ECE Efforts

The ECE Department is seeking to more efficiently manage the cost of its educational programs in response to severe state funding reductions imposed on the university by Virginia’s fiscal crisis.

By the second year of this biennium, Virginia Tech will have suffered a base total funding cut of 28 percent from its 2001/ 2002 level. Tuition increases will not cover the entire loss and operating budgets have been reduced throughout the university.

Teaching Funding Hit

“State funding supports our educational mission, but our research programs are not funded through the university’s operating budget,” said Warren Stutzman, interim department head. “Our faculty secures external funding for research and even reimburses the university for the use of its facilities and resources,” he said. “This means that our teaching efforts are the areas hit financially by these cuts.”

“Most of the state operating funds go toward faculty salaries,” he said. “Our 70 faculty members do not have clerical or administrative support, and are responsible for class arrangements, copying, course websites, external communications, budgeting, and other services typically provided to professionals. Supervisory and management tasks are also handled by the faculty, including faculty recruiting, promotion decisions, and strategic planning.”

Early Retirement

As a result of the university’s early retirement incentive last spring, ECE will lose seven senior faculty members: Ioannis Besieris, Dan Chen, Richard Conners, David de Wolf, Gail Gray, Butch Nunnally, and Arun Phadke.

“We hope to replace several of the retiring professors with assistant professors at starting salary levels. Unfortunately, we were already short of faculty members before these cuts hit,” Stutzman said. “Including the students taking our freshman-level course, we have 1600 undergraduate and 500 graduate majors. Before the retirements, the student/faculty ratio was 30/1, while the overall university ratio is 16/1. We are continuing to recruit for our open positions, which means that the retirements will not save us much money,” he added.

“With our technological capabilities, we have long been a lean department with a small administrative staff for the size of our operation,” he said. “We’ve been very successful, have enjoyed a strong and growing reputation, and are consistently ranked among the top programs in the country,” he said. Before the cuts, department staff included five in the advising office, two accountants for purchasing and accounts payable, a business manager, and nine employees to maintain the laboratory equipment, and the computer network.

“We are looking to automate even more of our efforts, but are forced to pare all available expenses,” Stutzman said. This has led to a significant cuts in teaching assistants (TA), support for extra-curricular student activities, and equipment purchases and maintenance. “We are also becoming ruthless about cutting underenrolled classes, which means that some specialized courses may not be offered as often,” he said. The lack of TA support and additional staff cuts will add to the workload of the faculty, and area committees are working to develop teaching and evaluating procedures that take less time without hurting the student’s educational experience.

“As a department, we’re very proud of the education we provide our students and we will find creative solutions in this difficult funding period,” Stutzman said.

 
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http://www.ece.vt.edu/news/feb03/budget.html
Last updated: Wed, Apr 9, 2003