After several years of shrinking student enrollment and relentless state budget cuts, Delgado Community College said Wednesday it is eliminating some academic programs and will probably have to lay off some of its 1,100 faculty members as part of a downsizing effort ordered by the state's community college system.
A school spokesman would not discuss any specific cuts Wednesday after emails began circulating about which programs are getting axed.
The school's newspaper, The Dolphin, reported earlier this week that Delgado is terminating its television production and mass communication programs.
Tony Cook, Delgado’s director of public relations and marketing, would say only that the school is in the process of identifying underperforming programs as part of a statewide initiative set in motion by the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in March.
“We're reviewing our programs and scaling back or eliminating those that have low enrollment and high costs,” Cook said. “The goal is to be more efficient and to better serve all of our students.”
Delgado saw its enrollment swell during the national recession starting in 2008, but for-credit enrollment has fallen by a quarter since 2011, from 20,452 students to 15,455.
At the same time, the state has been cutting funding for higher education in general, making community and technical colleges more reliant on tuition and fees to fund their operations.
According to a letter from system President Monty Sullivan in March, the state’s technical and community colleges are running a combined deficit of $10 million and need to make cuts to some programs, among other cost savings.
Each school should conduct its review “with an eye toward aligning programs with workforce market demands and eliminating ‘loss leader’ programs,” the letter said.
Sullivan, who was the chancellor at Delgado before becoming the system president in 2014, wrote that as recently as 2009, the state funded community colleges to the tune of 75 percent of their budget and technical colleges at 85 percent. Since then, however, there have been 16 cuts totaling $82 million, forcing the schools to rely more and more on tuition.
The system has already seen a mid-budget year reduction of $2 million, and state revenue projections "continue to show a downward trend looking out over the next few years," Sullivan wrote.
The system and its colleges will have to find ways to "increase self-generated revenue to ensure program sustainability," he wrote.
Sullivan also said the system is going to revamp the way it provides training to prison inmates so that it won't use any school funds, and it wants its schools to make their athletic programs less reliant on state funding. It will also require each school to increase its reserve funds from 15 percent of operations this year to 25 percent next year.
Cook said the Delgado cuts will have to be approved by the Board of Regents, though he does not know when that could happen.
“At this point, I can tell you that the college is restructuring some of its academic programs because we have to operate in the most fiscally responsible way that we can,” he said.
In addition to the 15,455 students enrolled in for-credit programs in the fall semester, Delgado has another 8,000 students in non-credit workforce training courses.
For-credit enrollment is down 6 percent from the fall semester of 2015 and down 12 percent from the fall semester of 2014.
The school offers 35 associate degree programs; 84 certificate, technical competency and technical diploma programs; and more than 200 non-credit courses.
In addition to its main City Park campus, Delgado has campuses on the West Bank and in Metairie. It also operates the Charity School of Nursing, the Sidney Collier campus on Louisa Street and the Maritime and Industrial Training Center.
Delgado closed its Slidell campus in September, moving the programs and classes there to other campuses.