A Message from the President
June 27, 2016
After enduring three legislative sessions this year, and despite legislators approving a number of measures that will generate a significant amount of new revenue, I regret to report that our State continues to face serious fiscal challenges. While it is frustrating that not all fiscal issues were resolved during the recent legislative sessions, I am pleased that many members of Southeastern's legislative delegation worked diligently to help resolve the State's financial challenges and to support higher education. Likewise, our Governor and his administration ardently advocated for State fiscal stability and funding for higher education.
Here are the budget-related facts as we know them at present:
Higher education will begin the new fiscal year on July 1, with total State funding for support of operations at essentially the same level as last year. While it is certainly good news that there were no reductions made in overall operational higher ed funding, the potential bad news is that we are still waiting to learn how the Board of Regents will distribute these funds via the funding formula for this upcoming year. Initial reports in recent weeks about potential funding formula details were not favorable for our institution, but we will not know the final result regarding the distribution of funds until the Board of Regents meets on Wednesday.
For the first time in its history, the TOPS scholarship program will not be fully funded for the new school year. The funds allocated for the merit-based program through the recently-ended legislative session provide only approximately 70% of what is needed to fully fund the program. An amendment adopted near the end of the legislative session requires that these limited funds be "front loaded" in the fall semester, thereby fully funding the awards for that semester but providing only approximately 40% of the funds needed to pay for awards in the spring semester. Media reports suggest that Governor Edwards is considering vetoing this provision. In any case, we will not know exactly how TOPS will be funded until this issue is resolved. Uncertainty regarding the amount of TOPS awards and resulting unexpected tuition payments by TOPS recipients could impact enrollment as Southeastern has the State's third largest number of students receiving TOPS scholarships.
Although we had not planned to increase tuition this fall, circumstances referenced above are such that we are being forced to consider doing so. We are in the process of communicating with student leaders about this possibility. Any increase in tuition will require the approval of our Board of Supervisors.
Clearly, there are still a number of significant uncertainties regarding the university budget for the upcoming year. As always, when these issues become clearer, I will share the details with our campus community.
John L. Crain