RICHMOND, SEPT. 11 -- Officials at Virginia's public colleges and universities, already squeezed by budget cuts earlier this year, said a new round of spending reductions to be unveiled this week by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will affect class sizes, course offerings, and other items at the heart of their academic programs.
Already, at institutions from Northern Virginia's George Mason University to Williamsburg's College of William and Mary, the tangible results of the state's sputtering fiscal condition include more students in the classroom and fewer books in the library.
And new cuts -- most amounting to about 5 percent of total spending -- at 15 state-supported, four-year institutions and 23 community colleges will lead to a further reduction of staff members through layoffs and attrition, and possibly tuition increases, administrators at campuses around the state predict.
William and Mary, for example, has proposed to meet Wilder's orders to save about $5.7 million through eliminating 24 support staff positions this year, 12 of them through layoffs, and 13 faculty positions next year through layoffs.
In addition, the school is seeking permission from Wilder to impose a tuition surcharge of $400 on out-of-state students and $100 for Virginia residents. Other schools, including Old Dominion and Radford universities, are also seeking tuition surcharges, which Wilder has said he will consider on a case-by-case basis.
The specifics of the administration's higher education cuts are expected to be made public at a budget briefing on Thursday. Unlike William and Mary, the University of Virginia and Fairfax's George Mason University have declined to make public the details of the budget-cutting proposals they submitted to state Education Secretary James W. Dyke Jr.
Nonetheless, administration officials said the proposals offered by William and Mary and other institutions that made their plans public reflect in general terms the kind of sacrifice that every state institution is being asked to make.
The proposed spending cuts, necessary to live up to Wilder's vow not to raise taxes despite a cooling of the state's economy, are striking a clear chord of resentment among students at many campuses. George Mason students have complained vigorously about a plan to save electricity by turning off parking lot lights in the late evening.
And at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where the budget crunch has forced such moves as reducing the number of calculus classes from seven to two, thousands of students rallied on Monday in what university spokesman David Nutter called "the largest protest since the Vietnam War."
While some cuts clearly affect marginal items -- some schools have raised the temperatures at which the air conditioning goes on -- many others fundamentally impair the academic mission of the institutions, officials said.
"It's more than just anxiety," William and Mary Provost Melvyn Schiavelli said of the budget crunch. "We are going to see students not getting the courses they need . . . . What we are cutting this year, if we kept those cuts in place over the long term, would do serious damage to the academic program."
At Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University, President Eugene P. Trani said he proposed to meet Wilder's order to save $6.7 million in part by cutting all academic budgets by two percent and requiring a freeze on all vacancies, which would lead to larger classes.
That cut is in addition to $6.2 million that was cut from VCU's budget earlier this year, requiring a reduction of 170 positions through layoffs and attrition.
The cuts have caused "a good deal of pain," Trani said.
In addition to the cuts in operating budgets, institutions are still reeling from Wilder's announcement last month that lottery profits no longer will be used to fund long-term capital projects as originally planned. Virtually every campus has had some building put on indefinite hold.