March 23, 2009 10:41

Amid concerns among state lawmakers about plans to rework the formula for how to divvy higher-education funding among state colleges and universities, faculties are uniting in their opposition to the Jindal administration’s proposed $219 million in cuts to higher education.

UL Lafayette’s faculty senate voted unanimously to endorse a resolution opposing the Jindal plan. In a cover letter to the resolution, John Meriwether, the body’s executive officer and a UL physics professor, makes a case for higher ed:  

Louisiana is facing a large budgetary shortfall and published reports indicate that a large fraction of that shortfall is to be borne by cuts in higher education. This is a mistake. We should rather be strengthening our investment in higher education because it is a major economic engine and because it is crucial to make our higher educational system more attractive to our young people so they remain and contribute to Louisiana’s development.

The cover letter goes on to speculate that a deteriorating economy is likely to drive the recently unemployed and the currently under-employed back to higher education, leading to increased enrollment this fall at universities and technical colleges. “Must we respond to this,” Meriwether wonders, “with severely reduced resources?”

The resolution approved by the UL faculty senate contains the same language as a resolution adopted by the faculty senate at Southern University. The document argues that budget cuts will “exacerbate Louisiana’s loss of its best and brightest,” and suggests the administration consider dipping into the state’s $854 million “rainy day” fund and tap into $437 million in economic development funds as an alternative to cutting higher education.

Meantime in Baton Rouge, state lawmakers got their first look Friday at a new formula for distributing higher-education funding. The Associated Press reports the formula would reward schools based on performance benchmarks such as graduation rates, curriculum costs, research work and curricula that train students for jobs in demand. This new funding paradigm would replace the current formula whereby money is distributed based solely on enrollment.

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