A Message from the President
Since my last update on February 27, following the announcement of the Governor's proposed Executive Budget for next fiscal year, numerous stories have appeared in the media about the looming state budget crisis, its potential impact on higher education, as well as a variety of potential solutions the Legislature might pursue in order to address the crisis.
After thorough analysis of the nuances and complexities of the Executive Budget, we now understand the potential magnitude of the challenge for higher education is even greater than originally reported. Specifically, the proposed state funding for next fiscal year includes an extraordinary $608.3 million less than the current fiscal year budget.
As one Louisiana higher education colleague put it, this potential budget reduction is so large as to be almost "cartoon like" in magnitude. This is especially true given the tremendous level of cuts already absorbed by higher education institutions in our state over the last several years.
Fortunately, while stories about the budget crisis play out in the media, a great deal of work has been going on to clearly define the extent of the challenge, identify and vet potential solutions, and craft and deploy a consistent and unified message about both the importance of and need to support higher education in our state.
As unprecedented as the potential budget reduction is, I continue to find an equally unprecedented determination on the part of many legislators to take significant action in the upcoming session to avert what would clearly be a financial calamity for higher education and our state should the budget be enacted as initially proposed.
Of course, my goal, and that of other higher ed leaders, is to avoid any further reductions in state support for higher education. Accordingly, through meetings and other exchanges, I continue to communicate on an almost daily basis with leaders across our region, including members of our legislative delegation, about the importance of our institution to our region and the critical nature of our circumstances.
Although there appears to be widespread agreement among lawmakers that the potential reductions proposed in the Executive Budget are unacceptable, no single legislative solution has clearly emerged. In my opinion, the magnitude of the fiscal challenge is so large that no one or two solutions will be adequate. Rather, I believe a more complex combination of multiple legislative actions will be necessary. While I am cautiously optimistic the proposed budget cuts will be significantly mitigated, I remain concerned that the potential reduction is so large and many of the potential solutions so complex, it will be difficult for the Legislature to completely resolve the problem.
We will know more soon, as the Legislative Session begins next Monday, April 13, and numerous bills have been pre-filed that affect higher education, the budget, or both. As we move through the session that ends June 11, whatever solutions are crafted should begin to emerge in the weeks ahead.
I want to thank our faculty and staff for continuing to diligently serve the interest of our students despite the significant distractions associated with the state budget. Unfortunately, these distractions likely will continue for the next several months as the upcoming Legislative Session unfolds.
As always, I will continue to update our campus community with additional details as they develop.
The ROAR Network, maintained by the Southeastern Alumni Association, provides regular news updates and legislation monitoring for those who register. The service is free and open to all – whether alumni or not. Visit www.ciclt.net/southeastern.
John L. Crain