Regents panel discusses how to cope with funding cuts

The Tennessee Board of Regents spent time in a brainstorming session today, trying to figure out how to cut 100 million dollars. The Board of Regents oversees 19 state colleges and universities... including the University of Memphis. With Tennessee deep in debt, schools like the U of M, are being asked to make MORE cuts. But tonight, professors and students are telling us there's nothing left to cut.

The hardest lesson in the U of M's journalism program is the high cost of budget cuts. "We're down to the bare minimum." Department chair, Dr. James Redmond, says he's run out of places to save money. "I've been here 10-years and we've been as tight as a C-note on a piano. And we're close to the string breaking!" Redmond's graduate students no longer have telephones. Blue books and scantron test sheets, once free, now cost 20-cents. The school's elevator has been broken for weeks. And with no money for maintenance, buildings are falling apart. Student Tamaira Bass said, "They're terrible. They're dirty. They need to clean the vents. And there's leaking during rain." Jed Jackson, head of the Art Department, says it's beyond bleak. "We do not have money in our program to cut. So we're probably going to have to cut into the personnel area."

Department heads have been asked to cut up to 6-percent from their current budgets and 9-percent from next year's. It's the same story at Southwest Tennessee Community College and U-T Memphis. On the chopping block: Part time and secretarial jobs, textbooks and summer school courses. It's devastating to senior Josh Hatcher.

The not-so-popular consensus: Tennessee's taxing times could sink higher education to a new low. For the faculty: Mailing letters is out and stamps are too expensive. Xeroxing is kept at a minimum. And no more packets from your professor. Paper costs money so everything's posted on the Internet. And for students, another tuition increase is likely.

Three ideas came out of this morning's Board of Regents meeting. They plan on researching three things: shifting enrollment to community colleges, limiting the number of students by increasing admission standards, and capping state subsides for football to cut down on the money thrown into athletic programs that do not generate revenue.