DALLAS — Louisiana’s 14 state colleges and universities were advised at a legislative budget hearing on Tuesday to begin preparing now for a loss of almost $300 million in federal stimulus funds after fiscal 2011.
The state does not intend to make up for those lost funds with increased appropriations for higher education, said Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed $24.2 billion executive budget for fiscal 2011 maintains state funding for higher education at the fiscal 2010 level, with the help of $289.6 million of federal stimulus funding.
Louisiana has reduced spending on higher education by $250 million, or about 20% of annual state funding, over the past 14 months due to declining tax revenue. The latest reduction was in January, when the state schools were told to slice almost $84 million from their fiscal 2010 budgets.
John Lombardi, president of the Louisiana State University System, asked Fannin what level of funding colleges will see when the stimulus funds run out. The lawmaker said to expect none of the federal money would be replaced with state appropriations.
“I think what this committee would like to hear is examples of what colleges you’re closing and when,” Fannin told Lombardi. “There is nothing that I’m aware of that would make it look any better than that.”
In a statement released after the committee hearing adjourned, LSU said that higher education in the state is sure to suffer from significant cuts to school budgets.
“It is no exaggeration that the LSU System is truly perched on the edge financially and faces a compulsory change in its scope and mission brought on by these unrelenting and devastating budget reductions,” according to the statement.
Last week, higher education commissioner Sally Clausen told college system presidents to develop plans for $84.4 million in budget cuts for fiscal 2010, which ends June 30. She said potential reductions include $34.2 million for the LSU System, $4.4 million for the Southern University System, $22.3 million for the University of Louisiana System, and $10.1 million for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
Fannin said the schools should have been preparing over the past few years for lower budgets, and expressed dissatisfaction over the quality of education provided at many campuses.
“Even though we put all those hundreds of millions of dollars into higher ed, we didn’t get a better outcome,” Fannin told the educational leaders.
Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Harvey, said he was discouraged by the low graduation rates posted by the state schools.
“I don’t see the state getting a return on its investment,” he said. “Many of the students at our four-year institutions should be channeled to two-year schools and trade schools.”