Walter Pierce

La. higher ed: Deeper cuts to come?

by Walter Pierce

Meeting in Baton Rouge Wednesday, members of the Board of Regents were briefed on impending cuts to higher education at Louisiana colleges and universities, and Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen braced members for deeper cuts to come.

“The issues we face may extend out at least two, if not three years,” Clausen said, “Unless the economic conditions change for the better, higher education in Louisiana will be required to respond to a $440 million shortfall by 2012.” Clausen’s prediction is dire, but already higher education in the state is facing almost certain cuts. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget calls for state colleges and universities to trim $219 million from their budgets. That’s on top of $55 million in cuts already absorbed.

Clausen urged board members to make immediate plans for conducting the business of education with far fewer financial resources. “When addressing the budget cuts in the short-term, our systems and campuses will be guided by our long-term priorities,” she said.

Board members also discussed a proposed funding formula for higher education, which members saw for the first time less than two weeks ago. Under the proposal, funding would be awarded to colleges and universities based on performance benchmarks such as graduation rates and curricula that target industries in need. The current funding formula simply distributes the cash based on enrollment. Clausen concluded, “At the end of the day it is my hope that we will be implementing budget plans that are collaborative, thoughtful, equitable and performance driven.”