USAO Slashes Salaries to Deal With State Budget Cuts

Wednesday, November 4th 2009, 11:04 pm
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

CHICKASHA, Oklahoma -- Professors are sacrificing salaries for students in a first time move by a public Oklahoma university. The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is getting hit hard by state budget cuts.

USAO began the school year with a budget that had already cut library, travel and technology funding. They've had to absorb 5 percent state funding cuts and expect them to continue through June.

While all state universities are feeling the budget crisis pinch, USAO is particularly affected. The institution is part of what’s called the 10 year Mission Enhancement Plan. They have increased their admission standards to the highest in the state, and are touted for providing a private school level education at a public school price.

They are focused and small which makes a budget crunch more painful. USAO has about 1,000 full time students who leaders say will not be shortchanged by the university’s faltering funding.

USAO needed to make up $360,000 in an expected funding shortfall.

"This has been the toughest week of my leadership experience. We’ve decided on 1-3 percent decreases to employee salaries. The higher the salary, the greater the cut," said USAO President John Feaver.

In addition, contributions to a secondary retirement program has also been cut.

Band director Dan Henson has worked at USAO for 22 years and said he’s never had to take a pay reduction. 

"We were surprised. We knew of the state’s money troubles, but we were hoping to make it through the year with no raise rather than having to go backwards. It hurts because I have a daughter in college myself, another that will be there next year, and another that just started. It’s expensive. We’ll be watching the bills closer, not buying anything unnecessary, and eating out less. We will definitely be doing without a few luxuries," Henson said.

Although USAO has a reserve fund, Feaver said dipping into it would not have been the right decision. He said it’s important to keep it in tact in case economic situations get worse.

USAO's president said although his institution is the first public one to chop salaries, he doesn't believe it will be the last if state budget woes continue.

Faculty aren’t the only ones dealing with cuts. All USAO staff are subjected to the pay cuts as well. USAO’s president says he is taking the largest cut.