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University prepares for more budget cuts

By Melissa Holman and Sarah Baudoin
On June 20, 2012

  • Chef Jeff Haynes, executive chef of dining services, will assist in food service at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.

With nine days until the end of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the University is preparing to implement a $569,000 cut to the budget, in addition to facing a 4.4 million budget cut for the upcoming school year.
    Because the state did not meet its budget for the year, cuts are being made at every level, Larry Howell, executive vice president of the University, said.
    Because of a change to Group Benefit Allocations from the state, the University received a reimbursement, reducing the necessary cut for the end of the fiscal year to $313,000. Howell said the reimbursement was due to not having the number of employees expected at the University.
    "We've been really conservative because we have to be," Howell said.
    As part of their conservative stance, the University is making changes in spending patterns to make up for the cuts. Supplies are purchased on a need-only basis, travel is kept to a minimum, and some vacant staff or faculty spots have not been filled.
    "We kept saying we needed to save money for next year because we knew cuts would be drastic. They were even more drastic than expected," Howell said of the cuts.
    As a result of the cuts, tuition has gone up, but not at the rate that state funding has gone down. Howell said the increase in tuition has brought in approximately $10 million, but the state has decreased funding by $16 million. The tuition increase was a result of the LA GRAD Act, a 2010 law allowing the University to raise tuition by 10 percent if it meets certain performance requirements.
    With the 2012-2013 school year being the fifth consecutive year the University has faced budget cuts, Howell said the University cannot cut any more academic programs.
    "Our academic programs are all healthy. We can not eliminate any academic programs because that could create a spiral effect," Howell explained.
    Since 2008, seven programs were cut, including many two year programs, which were absorbed by local community and technical colleges like Fletcher Technical Community College.
    "If you eliminate academic programs, you eliminate enrollment, you eliminate revenue," Howell said. "It is constant and it becomes a downward spiral."
    Although academic programs will not be cut, students may see some changes in the size of the programs.
    "We will obviously have to reduce the size of academic programs, so students will be affected by fewer sections, bigger sections, maybe a class not offered as much as they want or need it to be, but it means them being able to major in what they are majoring in," Howell explained.
    The retention of all present academic programs is the top priority for the University, Howell said.
    "We have to, in my opinion, support the mission of the University. The mission of the University has to come first and that is academics," Howell said. "We have protected academics as much as we can but it gets more and more difficult every year."
    Students may also have to wait in longer lines at places such as Student Employment or Fee Collections, due to fewer employees working. Centers on campus, such as The Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders and The Louisiana Center for Women and Government, will be affected by the cuts also.
    In terms of enrollment, the University is bringing in the same number of students as in past years, Howell said. However, the quality of students has increased, therefore increasing the University's graduation rate. Because of this, enrollment numbers are decreasing, which becomes an issue in terms of revenue from the state as well as tuition. 
     Howell explained that although the University's funding is below average, the quality of the University is still expected to be above average.
    "We're not protected and health care isn't protected and everyone else is. One day that's going to have to change," Howell said. "It's not going to change until people really say enough is enough. It's easy to say, 'well, we're just going to cut them.' I don't think enough people value higher education."
    The University has until the third week of July to establish the budget for the upcoming year.

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