Local colleges bracing for budget cuts

Austin, TX - Late Monday night leaders of the Texas House and Senate announced they've reached an agreement on almost every part of the state budget.

There is no total amount of cuts yet because the official calculations still have to be done, but Medicaid will be one of the largest at 4.8 billion.

The only big disagreement left is over education.

While that is still being fought over, all Panhandle colleges and universities say they're bracing now for the worst.

From tut ion hikes to faculty layoffs, the way higher education happens in the Panhandle is about to change.

West Texas A&M Junior Brandon Upton doesn't like that some of his student fees are going up.

"That means I'm going to have to mess with student loans. Which doesn't make me very happy," he said.

VP for Business and Finance Gary Barnes says that's just one of several necessary steps to stay afloat with an unknown amount of budget cuts coming.

"I think everyone is kind of anxious, waiting to see what money we do have," he added.

WTAMU has also implemented a selective hiring freeze, renegotiated costs with their utility company and are looking at a possible tuition increase for nursing, engineering and business students.

"Those costs are greater than what some of the other disciplines are and certainly there are other models across the state where they have that differential tut ion for those programs," Barnes said.

Texas Tech decided it's better to have larger classes than higher student costs.

They may layoff up to 800 employees all across their system including the Amarillo campus.

And Amarillo College's president says 26 employees have already taken them up on a volunteer retirement incentive program.

They're also increasing tuition and fees by 11% in district and 25% out of district.

A final state budget isn't expected until the end of this legislation session in a couple more weeks.