Nicholls president says legislative session ends on a good note

THIBODAUX – Although it is too early to know the exact funding for Nicholls State University, the just-completed legislative session maintains basically a standstill budget for higher education.

“It will not allow Nicholls to enhance current programs, as we would like, but we will be able to keep all of our academic programs at their current levels,” Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president, said. “This is extremely good news.”

A little less than a year ago, Nicholls was told to prepare for a 25 to 35 percent decrease in funding. These projected reductions were based on Nicholls losing $7.4 million of federal stimulus funding which was part of the shortfall in state revenue of $1.6 billion. Nicholls students, faculty, staff and the community responded by letting their concerns be heard, and in December 2010, the projection was reduced to “no more than a 10 percent-decrease” – according to a statement released by Governor Jindal.

The initial Executive Budget of Governor Jindal actually called for a $3.2 million increase in total funding to Nicholls, via increases in both state funding (equaling less than half of the stimulus loss) and increases in self-generated funding by increasing tuition 10 percent through a combination of the LA GRAD Act, approved last year at 5 percent, and the fourth and final year of the 5-percent increase allowed by 2008 legislation. Also in the governor’s budget was a tuition cap increase, from four classes to five classes, and a 4-percent operational fee requirement, based on tuition, to follow tuition increases. It is currently fixed at the 2004 tuition level.

Although the legislation to raise the tuition cap from four to five classes did not come to a vote on the House floor, and the 4-percent operational fee did not pass, the remainder of the legislation appears to be intact.

“The failure of these two measures essentially eliminated the $3.2 million increase for Nicholls,” Hulbert said. “Nevertheless, the 10-percent tuition increase was approved, and the state funding was approved.”

“I want to thank everyone who helped to keep our funding intact – those who ‘stood up,’ the governor, and especially our legislative delegation,” Hulbert added. “It was a very tough legislative session, but our delegation fought for Nicholls so that we will be able to continue the programs we currently offer our region and state.”

Nicholls will work on finalizing its 2011-12 budget, once the final figures are released.