The state Board of Regents has approved budgets for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities, but warned schools that they continue to face the threat of spending cuts.
“There is a looming budget shortfall that we all have to face,” Regents Chairman Roy Martin said at Thursday’s board meeting. “All the systems need to be mindful of that.”
System leaders took part in a day of budget hearings on Wednesday, outlining tuition and enrollment trends, budget concerns and critical funding needs.
Over the course of several hours, leaders of LSU, Southern University, the University of Louisiana System and Louisiana Community and Technical Colleges told of their struggles to keep up with student demand while their budgets have been slashed.
LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander told the board that, under current funding trends, LSU is about 12 years away from having no state funding support.
“We’re on a fast-moving trajectory,” he said.
To put that into perspective, Alexander pointed out that the timeline would affect this year’s kindergarten class.
“It should be of great concern to all of us moving ahead,” he said.
He said the loss of state funds has put more burden on students as tuition has gone up.
“Our students have had to pay more, but the class sizes keep going up,” he said.
The Associated Press reported this week that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has been notifying legislative leaders that the state ended its last budget year with a deficit. The administration hasn’t publicly revealed how large the shortfall was.
The state Legislature granted colleges a two-year authority over setting fees that they can assess students.
Alexander said he expects fees for the spring semester will come up at the LSU Board of Supervisors’ October meeting. All campuses except LSU’s Alexandria branch are expected to see increased fees.
“We’ve been very mindful of the responsibility that comes with that legislation,” said LSU Vice President for Finance Dan Layzell.
Alexander said the new fees will go directly to services that help students, including a campus tutoring center.
The state Board of Regents asked each system to provide detailed reports on the status of several initiatives, including enrollment growth and where their money is going.
“After reviewing all of the budgets, it’s apparent that we cannot keep raising tuition. We must find a way to stabilize budgets, and not on the backs of our students,” Martin said.