University of Texas budget cuts a new low

Specifics detailing the University of Texas’s approach to trimming fat during the current budget squeeze are emerging nearly every week.
  • Daily Texan Editorial Board
October 16, 2009

Following recent news that the College of Liberal Arts will be taking steps to cut graduate admissions in accordance with President William Powers’ initiative to prioritize recruitment of top faculty and graduate students, the College of Natural Science’s Department of Mathematics is the latest to hint at a restructuring of graduate study. As with many of the budget details that have surfaced this fall, some of the news is potentially concerning for certain sectors of students.

The Daily Texan reported today that the math department may move to pull teaching positions and scholarships from seventh-year Ph.D. students if further cuts — stemming from a 10-percent decrease in departmental funding — are called for.

The math department has in the past contractually guaranteed five to six years of financial assistance to doctoral students, and while seventh-year students are not promised aid, funding has allowed the department to assure them assistance. A policy in place, though, exempts the University from fulfilling such contracts when the state is undergoing a budget crisis — and depending on budget outlooks, seventh-year students will take those hits.

These seventh-year students are not what many would deem “average” college students: They are older, likely with greater financial burdens and, perhaps, with families of their own. Revoking their financial assistance will significantly handicap their efforts to complete a lengthy academic endeavor — the very sort of education the University should be lauding and touting in its attempts to recruit top graduate students.

Admittedly, those affected will be few, but the proposition is disconcerting. During his State of the University address on Sept. 17, Powers asserted that, in a time of financial unease, the University “can try simply to balance the budget and tread water, or we can make the necessary hard choices and move ahead.”

In this instance, the Department of Mathematics must consider whether this step, meant to move the department “ahead” is actually a step backward.

While the University is entitled to reprioritize graduate departments as it sees fit, departmental administration should weigh the human effects of restructuring before tacking too closely to a vague phrase — “move ahead” — that encourages brash decision-making.

With the budget essentially flat, perhaps treading water is, in some cases, temporarily acceptable.

This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Daily Texan at the University of Texas. Please send comments to

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