By Michael Kennedy And Dennis O’Neil

The University of Louisville has been ordered by Gov. Steve Beshear to cut its budget by three percent through the end of this fiscal year, ending on June 30. U of L’s cuts are part of state-wide cuts, after Beshear announced a state budget shortfall of $434 million.

According to U of L President Dr. James R. Ramsey, it is uncertain how these cuts will affect tuition for the 2008-2009 school year, where as much as a nine percent increase has been discussed. Ramsey did say that “the next two months are critical,” in regards to the tuition situation.

“We have budget scenarios set up that anticipate certain cuts,” Ramsey said. “Depending on how much is cut from state funding in the future, tuition increases become big issues in this situation.”

The three percent cut amounts to $5 million that the university must come up with. Due to a freshman class of unprecedented size, 200 more students than anticipated, $1.5 million will come from excess tuition, leaving $3.5 million of real cuts that the university must make.

In light of this, Ramsey has enacted a hiring freeze on all personnel, except for positions where a search was ongoing at the time of the freeze, or if an offer had been made to fill a position. For essential positions, the Provost must approve, and she will work with the department head to determine where the money will come from to counteract the salary of the hire.

In light of the fiscal position U of L is in, SGA President Brian Hoffman said, “It’s going to be a tough year.”

The university has not made any cuts yet, and any program cuts that may occur this year will be minimal, according to Ramsey.

“We have not come out and cut any programs,” Ramsey said. “A lot of the time departments are budgeted money that they don’t spend, so we think we will have enough money to manage the current year.”

However, as the Kentucky General Assembly is working on the 2009-2010 state budget, Ramsey is convinced that more cuts are on the way, and he has been told that the worst-case scenario would be an additional 12 percent cut in state funding, for a 15 percent cut total.?

“That’d be devastating,” Ramsey said, “in terms of the progress we’ve made and what we’re trying to do.”

If the hiring freeze remains in effect for next semester, another large freshman class would mean an increase in the student-faculty ratio, which is at 17:1. As professors leave and graduate assistants graduate, and that “will affect quality,” according to Ramsey.?

“We have been trying to get our student to faculty ratio down and budget cuts could force us to go back the other way.”

Ramsey still remains committed to the continued growth of the campus. According to Ramsey, new buildings for classroom space will be a casualty of the cut.

“The Provost is currently looking for ways in which we can continue to grow and house more students until we can get a new class room building,” Ramsey said. “Also, if we can’t get a new classroom building, we have to figure out a way in which we can continue to grow.”