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A double-helix DNA design element is seen on an exterior portion of the new South Louisiana Community College Health and Sciences Building as construction nears completion Friday, December 16, 2016, in Lafayette, La. The 63,000-square-foot, $17 million building is located on Bertrand Drive and will house labs, classrooms, an auditorium and a virtual hospital.

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

Louisiana’s community and technical colleges are realigning eight campuses in response to declining state support for the two-year higher education institutions.

“The fiscal challenges of the last decade have a number of our colleges in a precarious financial position, jeopardizing the quality and access essential to our mission,” Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said Wednesday.

Like other Louisiana public colleges and universities, the two-year schools are feeling the brunt of ongoing budget cuts. Sixteen successive state budget cuts over eight years, totaling $82 million, has shifted the financial burden from taxpayers to the students.

When the LCTCS was established in July 1999, state government and other sources put up about 85 percent of the costs for technical schools and about 75 percent of the costs of the community colleges. That meant the students paid 15 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Those ratios have flipped.

But with the budget cuts, the institutions increasingly have had to rely on tuition and fees to pay the bills. As the price has gone up for students, fewer have enrolled, which is putting further financial stress on the institutions.

LCTCS doesn’t see the budget outlook turning any corners in the near future, Sullivan told The Advocate in an interview. Steep revenue shortfalls expected for the fiscal year beginning July 1 could mean more cuts to public higher education. Only a few weeks ago, LCTCS received a $2 million cut in its appropriation for the remainder of the current budget cycle, which ends June 30.

“To ensure the long-term future of access and quality two-year college education, we must continue to find ways to maximize the resources we have available to us,” Sullivan said.

The LCTCS board Wednesday approved shuffling campuses on July 1 to colleges with stronger finances in a move that is expected to lower administrative costs and allow for more efficient instruction, he said.

Realignment is the most dramatic of the recommendations approved Wednesday by the board. Other ideas include finding other funding sources for athletic programs.

No campuses would close, but reassigning to which colleges eight satellite campuses would report would save about $10 million a year, Sullivan said. That’s about 5 percent of the $195.4 million annual budget for the dozen public community colleges and technical schools scattered around the state.

Last year, the community and technical colleges enrolled about 131,000 students, transferred about 15,000 students to four-year universities, and graduated 28,853 students.

The goal is to link campuses in similar locales, economies and workforce needs, Sullivan said.

For instance, the South Central Louisiana Technical College, based in Morgan City, has additional campuses in Cut Off, Thibodaux and Reserve.

Sullivan’s plan would move the Cut Off/Galliano campus to the control of Fletcher Technical Community College in Houma. Fletcher’s marine petroleum curricula and South Central’s marine training would fall under the administration of the South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette.

South Central’s campus in Reserve and Baton Rouge Community College’s campus in Plaquemine would shift to the River Parishes Community College, headquartered in Gonzales.

Sullivan said the move puts campuses along the Mississippi River petrochemical corridor under the same administration. The schools aim to train workers for nearby facilities, so instruction could better focus more on process technology, industrial instrumentation and training best suited for the petrochemical manufacturers. And consolidating administrative activities allow businesses to deal with only one college, he added.

“Our graduates can walk out of the Reserve campus or the Sorrento campus and literally work in the same zip code,” Sullivan said.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.