Budget cuts to effect science and nursing programs?

McKenna Scherer, Editor-in-Chief

Winona State University’s College of Science and Engineering may have to shave over $600,000 from its budget in light of the university’s impending budget cut.

The COSE, the university’s second largest program with over 1,000 students, faces a projected budget loss of about $370,000 to $630,000.

Winona State’s current $1.6 million budget deficit calls for a $3-$5 million budget cut to be made for next school year, creating a funding loss for every college and area on campus, including athletics and the president’s office.

Even though COSE is the second largest college on campus, the number of COSE majors has decreased 12% between 2017 and 2019, according to Charla Miertschin, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

Despite the 12% decrease over the past two years, the number of graduates from the science and engineering departments has increased by 1%.

This compares well against Winona State’s percentage of undergraduates making it to through graduation, which has decreased by almost 7%, according to Miertschin.

Miertschin credits the COSE faculty and staff for working hard to recruit new students and retaining current students.

A decrease in COSE faculty has occurred alongside the decrease in students.

During Winona State’s fall budget forum on Oct. 22, Allison Quam, a professor at the university’s library, noticed a graphic that seemed to depict a rise in employees despite a decrease in student enrollment over time.

Several faculty members from different departments spoke at the forum, saying they had seen a decrease, rather than an increase, in employee numbers.

COSE has lost seven full-time employees.

Those employees included permanent, fixed-term and adjunct faculty.

President Olson said that administration would look into where those who were hired during the increase were placed, department and position-wise.

Scott Ellinghuysen, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said that the human resources department was still “looking into” the inquiry made on Nov. 14 weeks later, and that their findings would be posted online.

Now, more than a month after the forum and three weeks after Ellinghuysen’s Nov. 14 update, there has yet to be a post made regarding the inquiry.

The dean of COSE, alongside every other college dean and chairpersons, said she is still in the midst of coming up with a budget plan to make way for the incoming funding cut.

“The department chairs and I have met to discuss areas in which we could realize some budget savings,” Miertschin said. “Specific plans have not been finalized at this point.”

COSE currently houses 80 faculty and 18 staff members.

It is unclear at this point whether or not the college will deem it necessary to cut back on faculty costs, offered classes, materials, etc.

COSE’s largest department is the biology department.

Amy Runck, chairperson of the biology department, did not comment on the situation due to feeling as though anything she said at this point would simply be “speculation.”

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences follows COSE and the College of Liberal Arts in terms of most funding to be axed, based on given budget projections.

The college is projected to lose anywhere between about $280,000 to $470,000.

This college houses the nursing, social work, recreation tourism and therapeutic recreation and health, exercise and rehabilitative sciences departments.

Winona State is known for their exceptional nursing program with a 96% job placement rate following college.

Nursing student enrollment has remained steady despite the university’s decrease in general enrollment, due to more graduate nursing students seeking advanced nursing degrees through the school.

There are currently 340 undergraduate nursing students and approximately 250 graduate nursing students.

Much like student numbers, faculty and staff numbers have remained about the same over the past several years according to Julie Anderson, dean of nursing and health sciences.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences is able to hire new faculty when existing faculty retires or leaves the university, according to Anderson.

This is something departments in the College of Liberal Arts, such as the mass communications department, have expressed inability to do due to lack of funding or shifts in what positions are available.

Anderson did not specify what the college is considering cutting back on as it works on a budget plan to accommodate the reduction.

“The entire college is looking for ways to increase efficiencies in our work processes and how we educate our students,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to continue to deliver high quality education to our students in a more efficient manner.”

Sandy Herron, the chairperson of the nursing department, was unavailable to comment.