UL Braces for State-Ordered Budget Cuts
February 07, 2009
By Tina Marie Macias - The Advertiser.com
UL might consolidate academic programs and close buildings, eliminate economic development centers, freeze hiring, furlough employees, and close colleges or programs in the next fiscal year, UL President Joseph Savoie said Friday.
Those measures would be the result of slashing between 15 percent and 28 percent of UL's budget. That's the worst-case scenario for the university as it prepares for budget cuts expected in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration asked colleges to propose how to reduce spending in the next fiscal year. For the UL System and its eight universities, the cuts could be up to $116.4 million.
UL is the largest of the universities and its share could be as much as $25.5 million.
But the cuts might not be necessary as the state takes federal Medicaid and stimulus funds and possibly dips into its $800 million Rainy Day Fund.
"If we know this is unlikely to occur, why do we need to scare the hell out of everybody?" Savoie said. He denounced the public manner in which the university has to make its plans and said he worries about how it will affect students making their final decision about where to attend college and potential faculty who are choosing between Louisiana and other states.
"It's unfortunate the state has a very arcane method in picking its budget," he said. "It puts a very low priority on something that should be a very high priority."
As commissioner of higher education under Govs. Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco, Savoie oversaw state funding for colleges and universities in the 1980s. He said the cuts the state is asking for now are in far bigger chunks than in the '80s.
The college already cut $4.3 million from its budget in January, reducing funds to economic development centers, athletics and maintenance.
In the next round of cuts, the university will prioritize consolidating academics, forgoing scientific equipment purchases and reducing or eliminating research centers and economic development centers like the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise and the Cecil Picard Center for Child Development.
"If it comes between funding businesses and keeping the history department open, I'm going to choose the history department," Savoie said.
Research and economic development centers already faced a 4.62 percent reduction in the January cuts. The LITE Center saw a $147,000 cut.
Other budget reduction measures could include leaving unfilled faculty positions open and furloughing employees between a half-day a month and two days depending on how much they're paid. The last cost-cutting measure the university would take is shutting down two of its academic colleges for a cost reduction of about $12 million.
Savoie said he has not identified what colleges would be eliminated. A budget task force has been formed.
If an academic program or college must be cut, the first in consideration will be those that are costly to run and have low enrollment.