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Nicholls finalizes slashed budget

President discusses effects

THIBODAUX – Nicholls State University has completed its 2012-13 budget. The university’s total operating budget – $52 million – reflects a $5.3 million reduction in state funding and self-generated revenue since July 2011.

More than $4.6 million of the cut has resulted from a decrease in state funding combined with an increase in state-mandated expenses, including retirement costs and insurance premiums.

The remaining $737,000 decrease is attributed to a loss in tuition and other self-generated revenue due to an anticipated decline in enrollment – a direct result of higher tuition rates and increased admission standards.

“It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of these cuts, specifically the cumulative effect of 10 reductions over the past four years,” Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president, said. “The decimation of higher education in this state is unlike anything I have seen in my 40-plus years of professional experience.”

The university’s budget reduction plan includes the layoff of 28 employees (two faculty and 26 staff). Also included is the elimination of 65 currently vacant positions (20 faculty and 45 staff), many of which were only recently vacated, bringing the total faculty and staff reductions to 122 (33 faculty and 89 staff) since 2008-09. In all, this totals a 16 percent reduction in employees (12 percent for faculty and 18 percent for staff) while enrollment has only decreased 5 percent.

“I deeply regret being forced to lay off valuable employees who provide needed services for our students,” Hulbert said. “There are no easy answers. Nicholls has not published the effect of the budget cuts until now because we needed to go through the appropriate process of notifying those being laid off. This was an agonizing process, leaving good people jobless and introducing increased burdens to those left behind – the people who haven’t received a pay raise, unless they were promoted, since 2007.”

Additional cuts were made in the following areas: operating and professional services, travel, supplies and library reference materials.

“It is important to note that our students, as well as all students in the state, are now paying more and getting less because of the series of state budget cuts and the 10 percent per-year tuition increases,” Hulbert said.

The ratio of state support to tuition/fees has gone from 61 to 39 percent to the other way around, 40 to 60 percent. State funding has shrunk from almost $36 million in 2008-09 to less than $19 million – a decrease of more than $17 million, or 48 percent.

“Make no mistake, we’re talking about the future of higher education in the Bayou Region,” Hulbert added. “It is important to remember that around 60 percent of our incoming freshmen are still first-generation college students, many of whom have Nicholls as their only choice for a four-year degree because they are unable to travel two to three hours to a regional university and are unable to afford the cost of room and board on another campus. Put simply, the lack of state support for higher education in Louisiana is a tragedy – and an incredible mistake by Louisiana state government.”

Despite budget challenges, Hulbert said the university remains committed to protecting, as much as possible, the academic core of the university and fulfilling its mission to provide higher education opportunities to the people of Nicholls’ service region.

Hulbert recently appeared on KNSU 91.5 FM to discuss the reasons, processes and effects of the budget reductions. To listen to the full 20-minute segment, go to http://soundcloud.com/knsu-91-5-fm/nicholls-and-you-w-guest-dr.

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