By Justin Lofton

Staff Writer

ADA — With state schools scrambling under the threat of budget cuts, higher education is not exempt from ill-effects of the 2008 economic downturn.

East Central University and Pontotoc Technology Center are taking the necessary steps to meet reduced government funding.

Dr. Steve Turner, East Central University’s vice president for administration and finance, said the university is looking at several ways to cut expenses for the upcoming year.

“As we prepare for the fiscal year 2011 budget, we are considering multiple scenarios based on potential additional reductions in our state appropriations,” Turner said.  “Additionally, the executive committee met with the Student Senate to consider an increase in tuition.”

He said no reduction in programs or services is currently anticipated but continuing decreased funding could change that.

“Certainly ECU cannot go on indefinitely to cover shortfalls with our limited reserves and we hope the economy continues to rebound before we are forced to make the difficult decisions of program reduction,” he said.

Greg Pierce, superintendent of Pontotoc Technology Center, said low funding has affected nursing programming.

“PTC has reduced our Licensed Practical Nursing Program to three instructors after an instructor resigned, which results in a reduction of our FY11 class size from 41 students to 31 students,” Pierce said.

Neither school is planning to go through reductions in force or layoffs but, as with many schools, administrators will be looking at not filling vacated positions.

Pierce said increasing class sizes for PTC is out of his hands.

“Our class sizes are determined by the State Board of Career and Technology Education, State Board of Nursing, State Board of Cosmetology and many other accrediting agencies,” he said.  “We have not been given the authority by these agencies to make adjustments to class sizes or increase capacities.”

Turner said ECU will also be trying to save money through the school’s energy management program, which was designed to reduce utility costs.  Both schools will be limiting travel expenses.

David Pardue, an ECU student, said he is worried about tuition on a limited college student’s budget.

“I think it’s unfortunate that tuition has steadily increased over the years,” he said.  “Personally, I’m content eating Ramen (noodles).”

Turner said, while a tuition hike is being considered, the idea would have to be reviewed.

“Any tuition increase has to be carefully considered based on the impact to students and their families.  The Oklahoma State Regents will determine later in the spring if there can be a tuition increase.  We do however have mandatory or fixed cost increases that must be covered for next fiscal year and the funds will have to come from some source,” he said.

Both Turner and Pierce said they are concerned about depleted stimulus funds for schools in the upcoming fiscal years, including 2011 and 2012.