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Legislative Discussions

TO: The University Community

Yesterday, the state level leadership of public higher education met with the membership of the Senate Finance Committee. During that hearing, the commissioner of higher education, Sally Clausen, supported by the four system presidents, presented a planning model developed to demonstrate the dollar impact of the loss of the $300 million in ARRA or federal stimulus support. Those dollars disappear July 1, 2011, and create a need to reduce institutional budgets by upwards of 30 percent.

It seems that the higher education leadership simply started with the lowest four-year university budget and moved up in dollar amount, university by university, until they reached the $300 million total. Clearly, the result of that exercise designated 8 primarily regional universities, basically leaving one regional institution and five so called research universities untouched.

As said before the Senate hearing and quoted by the media, this was simply an exercise to dramatize the seriousness of the $300 million shortfall looming ahead in July 2011. Motivation aside, it is left to the affected university communities to pick up the pieces so to speak. And, for each of us, the result of this exercise is most personal in nature.

With approximately 140,000 individuals attending Louisianas public universities and about 50,000 being directly affected by the closure of the 8 institutions sited, we will see fully one-third of Louisianians being turned away from access to four-year higher education. More directly, service regions, like that served by Nicholls State University, would totally lose access to four-year higher education.

I cannot believe that in the final analysis that scenario will play out.  Therefore, for the present, I am asking all members of the university community to remain calm as the state moves forward with its financial decision-making.  As usual, I will keep you and all of our university friends aware of on-going discussions affecting Nicholls State University.

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