Local Administrators Examine Cuts to Higher Ed.|Southern Education Desk
3:38 minutes (3.33 MB) Download
|23 May, 2012|
A political culture opposed to spending increases may be the source of potential budget cuts to higher education in Louisiana. Post-secondary institutions in the state are bracing for a shortfall of $134 million.
Plaque Dedicated to Delta Community College
by Governor Bobby Jindal
Delta Community College is one of them. It is a bustling campus in Monroe that serves about 4,000 students. But how long it will remain this busy is an open question.
Cuts to Programs Loom
Luke Robins is the chancellor of the college. He says upcoming cuts to higher education will impede the institution’s ability to serve students.
“One of the confounding factors for us is that we continue to grow. And so we have new students seeking the services and the state funding – we have two lines: we have an enrolment line that’s going up, we have a funding line from the state that’s going down. That creates some real tension for us in terms of being able to provide services at the level that we’re currently providing them.”
Like other higher education systems across the state, his school is going to have to look for places to cut.
“If HB 1 stands as it was passed by the House, and those cuts are in place, then we – obviously we have a contingency plan for that. What we’ll be doing – and we’re already doing it – taking a very hard look at programs that have low enrolments. We’re looking at campus sites that potentially have relatively low enrolments compared to the overhead that it takes to run them.”
Chancellor Robins would not say exactly which programs would see the axe, preferring to wait until the state budget is finalized. The senate could restore some of the money - but if none is put back into higher education, the total cuts since fiscal year 2008-2009, would reach $585 million, according to University of Louisiana system documents.
Political Opposition to Spending on Higher Education
Dr. Gene Tarver taught political science for more than thirty years at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He has also served in local and state politics over that span. He says education is not the state’s highest priority.
“We really haven’t had a strong lobbying effort, if you will, whereas there are other interests that have a strong lobbying presence in Baton Rouge. But not as far as education – either public, elementary and secondary or higher education.”
Tarver also says the competing interests of the University of Louisiana system, Louisiana State University, the Southern University System and the Board of Regents contributes to the cash crunch.
“It’s fractionalized and you have different boards competing for scarce dollars.”
He says this creates a climate of poor communication between the university systems, and he adds that Louisiana’s political climate does not favor new taxes to bolster university systems.
“You have a governor who’s not inclined to generate support for education that is needed at a very critical time. It’s always critical, but his agenda does not include adjustments in revenue streams, which are necessary.”
But despite deep cuts coming from Baton Rouge, some are pushing to replenish the higher education budget with one-time funding sources.
Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson explains.
“There have been a lot of misnomers about what one-time money is, but that’s basically it – one-time money is going into your savings account and keeping the house before it goes into foreclosure.”
And the President of the University of Louisiana system, Randy Moffett, says citizens don’t want to see any more cuts.
“The public has come to realize that higher ed. has sustained a substantial amount of reductions in the last few years. And whether they have a degree – they may have a son or daughter or granddaughter attending one of these institutions. And cuts to higher education affect the ability of their family members to attain a degree and improve the quality of their life. So I certainly believe that there is a shift in attitude that enough is enough.”
Still, Gene Tarver says that even if some of the money is restored the funding issue will not be solved. He says it will crop up every year until politicians agree on a permanent solution.
Air Date: Thu, 05/24/2012