For the past several weeks, this university and other four and two-year post secondary education institutions have been trying to get a sense of just what happened in terms of state operating support between the release of the Administration’s Executive Budget and the conclusion of the 2012 Legislative Session. Some in Baton Rouge say higher education “dodged a bullet” in that session, but those of us more directly involved in the life of colleges and universities know the truth.
It is clear that Nicholls and all other two and four-year institutions are facing a ninth budget reduction since the 2008-2009 fiscal year. If you have been following those cuts, you may have missed the eighth reduction, which occurred with just 24 days left before year-end on June 30, 2012. That cut alone amounted to $569,000 and resulted from higher education being the only state agency not to benefit from the use of Rainy Day funds.
Nicholls State University is presently facing a $5,272,819 reduction in state support and self-generated revenue. This figure takes into account a third year of a 10 percent tuition increase, amounting to approximately $2.71 million. With increases in other expenditures such as retirement and scholarships, the current budget shortfall is $6,163,835.
Clearly, the total budget reduction figure of approximately $6.2 million would have been higher without the tuition increase and if the state had not moved to use one-time dollars. For the latter category alone, the increase in budget deficit would have amounted to $3.2 million more.
All of us appreciate the support of Senators R. L. “Bret” Allain and Norby Chabert within the Senate Finance Committee to ensure the availability of one-time dollars as a means of reducing what was already a massive further cut in state support.
While the financial planning effort is still on-going, in order to address the projected $6.2 million reduction in operating support, yet another set of dramatic steps will need to be taken within the next month. The initiatives under active consideration include:
- Eliminate vacant and projected to be vacant positions.
- Affect greater efficiencies related to faculty work load, part-time employment and course scheduling.
- Substantially reduce or eliminate select non-academic support and administrative services.
- Affect forced position terminations.
- Reduce remaining operating budget allocations for all but mandated and absolutely critical travel, supplies, equipment and other operating expenditure categories.
- Affect further efficiencies among the self-generated, auxiliary enterprises; transfer some operating expenditures to this and other non-operating funding services.
With the above referenced ninth, or most recent, budget cut amounting to $3.0 million, Nicholls has faced a cumulative reduction in state support of $16.7 or 46.3 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Over the course of just these last four fiscal years, the burden of support has moved from 60 percent state support and 40 percent self funded, through tuition or other revenues, to 37 percent state support and 63 percent self-funded.
I am only too aware of the concern existing across the University staff and within the student body regarding budget cuts, the potential loss of employment, and increased cost levels of tuition and fees. Every effort will be made to make decisions as quickly as possible and to keep affected community members aware of the actions that must be taken to submit a balanced operating budget by August 1, 2012.