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Frequently asked questions

This page last updated Nov. 20, 2009
This page will address some of the questions that readers have submitted to this Web site.

 

Q: Would academic programs being recommended for discontinuation end immediately or be phased out?

A: All programs being discontinued are phased out according to a timeline unique to that program. Students currently enrolled in academic programs recommended for discontinuation will have the opportunity to complete their requirements for that major, minor, specialization or graduate certificate. For more specific questions, students should contact their academic adviser.

Q: How can students provide input as the decision-making process related to academic program and department budget cuts continues?

A: Students may provide input at all levels – departmental, college and institutional. Student governance exists at all levels across the university and student questions or concerns can be communicated through those already established channels. Students also are encouraged to provide input to Associated Students of Michigan State University’s Academic Assembly and the Council of Graduate Students’ Academic Council.

Established policies and procedures for Academic Governance will continue to guide the planning process, and input from members of the MSU community will play an important role in that process. The Executive Committee of Academic Council, which functions as the steering committee of Academic Governance, includes 4 student representatives, 2 graduate and 2 undergraduate. There are 7 standing committees of Academic Council, 6 of which include student representation. Students should feel free to provide informed input to student representatives at all levels of Academic Governance, as well as at the appropriate department and college levels.

 

Q: Has the university considered doing early retirement buyouts as a cost-saving measure?

A:  Michigan State University continues to research and consider various cost-saving options. However, an early retirement buyout/incentive is not currently being considered. Typically, early retirement buyouts or incentives are offered on a voluntary basis to employees who do not meet retirement eligibility criteria. While incentives can be attractive to the employee, the end result can be a hardship to the employer. For example, the buyout/incentive is voluntary and an organization's most valuable employees may choose to leave, resulting in a substantial loss of valuable experience and institutional knowledge. Given the uncertainty of the outcome, the cost of the buyout/incentive and subsequent unintended vacancies, the potential for any savings can be diminished.

Q: Would it save the university a significant amount of money to close down (all except essential functions) between the Christmas and New Year holidays?

A: The university has looked closely at the possibility of cost savings that might be derived from closing buildings over the holidays. Analyses show that closing, in and of itself, does not save personnel costs under existing labor contracts. Indeed, closing would raise costs to units that must operate at this time, wiping out any collective savings. The analysis also indicates that the energy savings would be minimal. During this period, the residence halls are already reduced to the minimum needed to keep the buildings’ critical functions, like sump pumps, working. The intense-research buildings are almost all at “24-7,” and we cannot jeopardize long-term research via short-term cutbacks.

 

Q: Are there more specific charts, graphs, figures, and data related to the budget?

A: Yes, you can find current budget and financial data and funding facts by visiting http://budget.msu.edu/.

 

Q: I’ve heard that health care costs are the university’s fastest growing expense. What’s being done to address this and are health and wellness programs being considered as a way to decrease health care expenditures?

A: Health care costs do indeed represent a significant challenge, and the university is working to find solutions that strike the right balance between quality and cost, including exploring robust wellness programs.

In February 2009, President Simon mailed a letter that addressed health care costs to all MSU faculty, staff and retirees. You may read that letter, “Addressing Health Care Costs,” which was also posted to “From the President’s Desk,” on the Office of the President Web site.

MSU’s Human Resources department has developed the Web site called Healthy State to keep the MSU community informed on the status of ongoing discussions related to health care costs. Please visit that site often for updates.

 

Q: Is the university looking at centralizing more services as a way to cut costs?

A: The university is reviewing all of its support functions with an eye towards consolidating high priority activities where appropriate or eliminating lower priority functions. We are specifically reviewing the creation of service centers to support IT, travel, and accounting.

 

Q: What plans does the university have to reduce energy costs?

A: MSU has improved the efficiency of its operations, reducing its annual expenditures more than $70 million during the last six years, and the university has a 13 percent reduction program that could be expanded. In addition, MSU saves more than $19 million annually in energy costs due to introduction over time of central controls, more efficient boilers, and innovative operation. Currently, MSU has a new aggressive energy-saving project in place, with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. More on specific energy-saving projects.

 

Q: Would the university consider a four-day, 36-hour work week for employees?

A: The university has considered this option but at the moment believes there may be better ways to manage reductions.

If the question is asked in terms of salary savings, there would obviously be savings with a reduced work week in terms of hours. In essence, this is a compensation reduction or cut for the employee. While the concept sounds easy to implement, this is a collective bargaining issue and MSU has 11 unions that would have to be negotiated with for unionized employees. On the faculty side, MSU continues to work to keep total compensation for faculty competitive, generally in the middle of the Big Ten, and a salary reduction would erode that position and thus could have an impact on recruiting and retaining faculty.

Other issues associated with a four-day work week would be the ability to reschedule a full-day of academic classes, particularly as it relates to labs and availability. The university already has difficulty with having enough labs for classes using a full five-day week schedule.

Although none of this is impossible to overcome, it does come with challenges and the need for broad agreement with the reduced compensation package.

 


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