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University of Wyoming

Students make their way around the University of Wyoming campus in January 2015 in Laramie. School officials are approaching their goal of cutting $19.3 million from this year’s budget.

University of Wyoming officials are approaching their goal of slashing $19.3 million from this year’s budget.

The state’s only public four-year university has cut 97 vacant positions and seen 55 employees take advantage of early retirement and separation incentives.

The current cuts total $16 million. Eliminating positions led to the largest reduction, with a savings of $5.7 million.

UW President Laurie Nichols declared a financial crisis at the school in June because of an almost $41 million loss in state funding for the two-year budget cycle. School officials are looking for ways to reduce the 2017 budget by $15 million.

The president’s declaration allows for expedient cuts of programs during times of extreme financial difficulty, according to the university’s bylaws. A committee is working with the president to determine where to make reductions. A second panel is investigating new revenue streams.

“We didn’t have a great deal of lead time to prepare a reduction plan for the current fiscal year, so the fact that we were able to realize some significant savings is remarkable,” Nichols said in a statement Monday. “The task before us for the following fiscal year is an extremely challenging one, and I appreciate the efforts of many to help the university make the additional reductions with a minimal impact to our students while holding true to our mission of education, research and service.”

A university-wide program review initiated in the spring is likely to lead to the elimination of some academic programs in the 2018 school year. A number of factors triggered review, including low demand and low graduation rates.

The review is not limited to academic programs. A consulting firm is also gauging the performance of the university’s administrative branches.

A preliminary plan for program cuts will likely be available for public comment Oct. 11. Nichols will present a plan to the UW Board of Trustees on Nov. 8. The board will consider the plan at its Nov. 16 meeting.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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