Louisiana’s colleges and universities will ask for about $504 million from the state in next year’s budget — well below what leaders say the higher education institutions should be getting from the state’s coffers, but a slight increase from this year’s funding.
On Wednesday, the state Board of Regents agreed to a preliminary budget request for fiscal 2015, but the request comes in at about $266 million below what the board would consider “fully funded.”
Barbara Goodson, deputy state higher education commissioner for finance and administration, said $769 million “is the formula calculation, what the state share should be.”
That higher figure would put Louisiana in line with funding in other states that fall under the Southern Regional Educational Board. But after deep cuts to higher education funding in recent years, leaders say they know it’s not realistic to assume that the public community colleges and universities in Louisiana would get that much.
“We have to say, ‘What is a reasonable amount we can request?’ ” Goodson said. “We look at a lot of different factors.”
On top of the $503.8 million sought for the colleges and universities, the Board of Regents is requesting about $175 million from the state for specialized institutions, including law and medical schools and specialized research centers, like Pennington.
The combined $778.4 million request is the first step toward the budget cycle that will begin July 1, 2015. Full funding, based on board staff calculations, would have been a total request of just over $1 billion for the state’s entire collection of higher education institutions.
According to a national analysis from Illinois State University researchers, Louisiana chopped higher education funding by more than 34 percent in the five years leading up to this year’s budget — more than any other state. At the same time, tuition prices have been on a steady incline — about 10 percent each year since the adoption of the 2010 GRAD Act.
College and university leaders praised this year’s state budget as a success because it didn’t include the deep cuts to higher education, and it created an additional $40 million pool for schools to seek additional funding to train students in high-demand fields.
The proposed budget again requests $40 million for the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund, commonly called the WISE Fund. Schools currently are in the process of submitting proposals for how to tap into this year’s WISE Fund dollars though collaborative partnerships with businesses. A Board of Regents committee is expected to review the first round of those proposals during a meeting next month. The full board on Wednesday gave authority to the executive committee to approve the proposals to expedite the process.
“The point is to keep the ball moving for the WISE Fund, as it relates to our systems,” said Regents Chairman Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry.
On top of re-allocating money for the WISE Fund for next year, the preliminary fiscal 2015 budget request approved Wednesday also seeks an additional $2 million that will be split between the state’s two public historically black universities, Grambling University and Southern University, to build up science and math fields there, and an additional $20 million for the state’s Competitive Core Growth Fund, which is meant to help realign funding across schools to help improve performance.
“We’re asking for a little more money, about $13 million more over the current year,” Goodson said.