LSU: Cuts could end one-third of degree programs

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, September 16, 2010

Louisiana State University would have to lay off 628 employees and close nearly one-third of its degree programs to cope with the type of budget cuts being considered by the Jindal administration, the university’s chancellor said Wednesday.

Enrollment would drop by an estimated 8,000 students if LSU eliminated 50 degree programs, and that’s what would be needed to shrink $62 million in spending from the campus’ $443 million operating budget, Chancellor Mike Martin said.

“It would be unconscionable to do something like this to LSU,” he said in a statement. “Students would leave the state en masse. Our best researchers would flee to other universities. Grants and contracts would dry up. The collateral damage it would have on alumni giving, the athletics program and the local economy would be immeasurable.”

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Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top budget adviser asked colleges and state agencies to show what would happen with cuts of 35 percent in their state funding.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater has said colleges shouldn’t assume they’ll get such a hefty cut. He called it an exercise the Jindal administration is using to determine where to slash funding in the budget year that begins July 1 when the state faces as much as a $1.6 billion shortfall.

As many as 350 professors would lose their jobs, student aid would be cut, the school’s largest experimental research facility would close and dozens of degree programs would be shuttered, the university said in its scenario of a 35 percent cut.

While the university expects to get a $20 million boost from a planned tuition increase next year, that money would only cover required health care and retirement increases and wouldn’t be able to offset the cuts, according to the budget documents LSU submitted to Rainwater’s office.

The campus would lose millions more in tuition and fee dollars as student enrollment drops, compounding the problem, Martin said. That could mean additional layoffs of faculty and staff, he said.

Martin sent an e-mail to faculty, staff and students outlining the cut scenarios and saying they would devastate the university. But he noted that the cuts were only hypothetical.

“We will continue to make the case to all constituents as forcibly as possible that these cuts would be destructive to the state’s flagship institution, catastrophic to the local economy and disastrous for the future education of the children of Louisiana,” he said in the e-mail.

The governor’s budget 2011-12 proposal isn’t due to lawmakers for several months.