Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UOG May Have to Cut Programs

UOG may have to cut programs
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News
October 14, 2008

Yesterday, University of Guam associate professor of nursing Kathryn Wood said her department had no choice but to grow in the near future. The coming military buildup will increase Guam's need for nurses and the UOG faculty must increase to cope.

"The nursing program is in critical condition and that is not a cliché. It's the truth," she said.

Wood spoke out yesterday at a UOG faculty meeting led by President Robert Underwood.

On Friday, Underwood announced that the Legislature didn't fund "growth initiatives" that would have allowed the university to prepare itself for the buildup.

The military buildup will bring at least 30,000 service members, dependents and laborers to Guam over the next few years, according to Pacific Daily News files. Wood said UOG nurses will be needed.

"Because of the nursing faculty shortage worldwide, if you can go down the street to another nursing program and get a job, why would you uproot and come halfway around the world to an area you are not familiar with?" she asked.

"(Nurses) don't have to all be from here, but we know there will be consistent care if people come into the system, they are with us and we don't have to worry about needing to scramble each year to hire," she said. "We want to have a stable health-care system."

Wood said the nursing program has had the largest increase in enrollment of any program on campus in recent years. More than 80 people have applied to the college this year and more than 60 should be accepted, she said. Unfortunately, for the first time, the shortage of professors may force the program to cap how many students the nursing school accepts, she said.

Wood said the nursing college employs six full-time faculty members and at least as many part-time members. The part-time faculty members work at full-time nursing jobs.

"They are getting tired," she said. "And the full-time faculty are pulling overloads every semester. We can't keep that pace up to produce more nurses. We are stretched to the limits."

Wood said a study by the nursing college determined that UOG needs to produce about 60 nurses a year to meet local demands.

This year UOG will only graduate about 20 nurses, she said. Last year 39 graduated.

To cope with the military buildup, UOG will have to graduate about 80 nurses per year, Wood said. To do so, it needs to fill two empty positions and hire about four more professors.

Underwood's growth initiatives included the hiring of six new professors for the college.

During a presentation Friday, Underwood said the funding cuts affected almost every part of UOG's budget. In total, UOG requested about $40.5 million but was only appropriated about $31.2 million. Financial aid for Regent scholars, the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and Marine Lab graduates weren't funded. Yesterday, Underwood said the programs may be phased out.

"We will try to find a way to continue the programs for at least another semester," he said. "But over the long haul, unless they are funded specifically, they will no longer exist."

Underwood's growth initiatives would have spent $1.4 million on new faculty and supplies to help develop Guam's professional workforce, including the hiring of 21 new faculty members.

UOG requested another $1.5 million to raise faculty salaries to "recruit and retain the best minds" to lead Guam's development, Underwood said.

Yesterday, history professor Donald Platt said the university would struggle to recruit competitively without more funding. Platt is the chairman of the UOG Faculty Senate.

"If the growth initiatives aren't funded, we will be able to survive, but we can't improve much," he said. "We can't attract faculty."

Underwood asked faculty members to brainstorm over the weekend about how the university could save money to pay for some of growth initiatives. Although the Legislature didn't give UOG any money to expand, he hoped to still spend about $300,000.

"Every society that is on a growth cycle invests in its human beings. Every society that is in decline will always cut education," he said.

Lee Yudin, Dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, suggested UOG might allow its current professors to teach more classes so fewer new hires were needed.

"It allows us a little bit of flexibility to offer more classes to our students when we deal with not being able to hire," he said.

Underwood said UOG could sustain its current population of 3,200 students, but may not be able to handle growth without more funding.

"While we are an open enrollment institution, we may face the day where we can't admit everyone we'd like to a given program at a given time," he said.

Underwood said he will weigh input from his faculty and propose a balanced budget to the UOG Board of Regents. He said the budget must be reviewed by Oct. 23.

Yesterday, Sen. Eddie Calvo said he tried to provide more funding for the university in his original budget bill, but the money was moved elsewhere. Calvo is chairman of the Committee on Finance. He is running for re-election.

Calvo said his original bill provided an additional $400,000 to the university. Had that bill passed, UOG would still have been short of its no-growth base budget and growth initiatives still would have been unfunded.

Calvo said he supported Underwood's goal of transforming the university into a factory for local professionals, but he had to prioritize the university's operations costs.

"We had to focus on meeting that base," Calvo said. "You are in need of a stable institution before you start to expand to the types of service and growth initiatives ... requested."

If Guam's "revenue picture" changes because of additional spending by tourists or the military, the Legislature could revisit the budget, he said. The Legislature also could re-appropriate funding from another agency, or the governor could use transfer authority to move money to UOG, Calvo said.

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