By Travis Reynolds

After enduring months of financial discussion, concern and worry at every corner of Eastern, the home of the Colonels can finally breathe a little easier-now that the expected 12 percent in additional state appropriations cuts has been chopped down to 3 percent.An e-mail from Eastern President Doug Whitlock circulated Tuesday, informing the campus community of the Kentucky House and Senate’s agreement to cut state appropriations funding by only 3 percent for the 2008-2010 budget.

“You will recall that the budget, as originally proposed, would have cut our funding by an additional 12 percent,” Whitlock said in the e-mail. “We are, therefore, grateful to the high priority that the members of both houses of the legislature gave to higher education in their budget deliberations.”

The decision to set additional budget cuts at only 3 percent will lessen the financial blow Eastern expected to withstand in the fall, but the campus will still see some degree of fallout from the cuts. With the original 3 percent cut mandated in December, Eastern is still facing a 6 percent reduction in state appropriations.

But expecting a 12 percent additional cut may have put Eastern in a better position to handle the situation.

“The hiring freeze and other things we put in place were predicated on getting ready to deal with the worst case scenario of an additional 12 percent,” Whitlock said in an interview. He added that some of the same strategies presented to deal with the 12 percent cuts, including increased class sizes offering fewer sections, might be used to deal with the three percent-but on a smaller scale.

Whitlock also addressed concerns over potential tuition increases related to the state appropriations reduction.

He said Eastern considered “no more than” 6 percent tuition increase for the fall semester even before talk of budget cuts began.

“A tuition increase has been in the mix of things since the beginning of this,” Whitlock said, “and our objective as a campus community is going to be to do as much as we can to keep the impact on our students as minimal as possible.”

Details on how the reduced cuts will affect Eastern have not been finalized yet.

Whitlock said campus administration will hold conversations with various facets of the university over the coming weeks to iron out details and make decisions on how to handle the change of plans.

“In the process of dealing with [the budget cuts] we’re going to have to make some reallocations of dollars to keep things moving,” Whitlock said. “This is not going to put us dead in the water…we’re going to do what we can with what we got.”

Talk of the cuts came as untimely news for Whitlock, who accepted his position as Eastern’s 11th president last August.

He said the financial strains related to losing millions in state appropriations funding placed limits on what he could accomplish as president.

“Obviously, making continued progress is easier when you have a greater resource base,” Whitlock said, “but I’ve found the spirit and willingness of the faculty and community at Eastern to deal with these cuts to be quite remarkable.