A Message from the President
February 22, 2016
As anticipated, there has been much media coverage about the ongoing state budget crisis. The media “noise” reached something of a crescendo recently when LOSFA, the state agency responsible for administering the TOPS program, announced that it was suspending payments for the merit-based scholarship program. We soon learned this meant that institutions would have to absorb part of the cost of TOPS scholarships for this spring. While our students who received TOPS awards this semester will not be impacted, this amounts to a mid-year budget reduction for Southeastern of about $2.1 million.
In addition to the $2.1 million, we were asked to develop plans for absorbing a “best case” budget reduction of $1.6 million - Southeastern’s share of a potential reduction to higher education of about $43 million. This is referred to as the “best case” scenario as it assumes legislative approval of all of the new revenue measures proposed by the Governor.
We also have been told that the “worst case” scenario, based on the possibility that the Legislature fails to enact any measures that generate new revenues, would entail a mid-year reduction to higher education of nearly $205 million (in addition to the TOPS-related reduction) - an amount that defies any rational solution given the cuts to date and that we are only five months from the end of the current fiscal year.
In the meantime, we are now into week two of the three-week Special Legislative Session I referenced in my previous campus budget update. Although the first week of the Session saw numerous committee meetings and much testimony and deliberation, not much actual legislation has been acted on by the full Legislature - and the clock on this short Special Session is steadily ticking.
The primary debate at the Capital currently seems to center around controversy over addressing the budget shortfalls via revenue raising measures vs. additional spending cuts. While I cannot speak for other agencies and areas of state government, I can attest to the fact that in the last several years Louisiana has reduced funding for higher education more than any other state. As a result, higher education simply cannot endure additional significant budget reductions.
Prior to the start of the Special Session, I also shared information about Southeastern with members of our legislative delegation that included the following:
Southeastern’s state funds, on an annual basis, already have
been reduced by over $48 million. Net of new tuition revenue
and mandated costs, we now have approximately $20 million
less annually to operate the university than we did in the
2009 fiscal year. As a result, we have eliminated dozens of
programs and through layoffs and attrition have hundreds
This week will be critical as proposed legislation will need to begin progressing through the legislative approval process in order to be enacted prior to the end of the Special Session on March 9. In fact, key legislation that could generate additional revenue will likely be heard in Committee within the next few days.
Additionally, there will be a statewide student rally at the Capital on Wednesday, February 24, to promote solutions that protect funding for higher education. We are also actively engaging our alumni, encouraging them to communicate with legislators, stressing that funding for higher education be a priority.
For faculty and staff who wish to keep track of related news and events and be a part of these efforts, I encourage you to join the ROAR network (ROAR), which is sponsored by the Southeastern Alumni Association.
As always, I will endeavor to keep the campus community apprised of new developments.
John L. Crain