Nicholls to answer questions on higher education cuts

Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 6:54 p.m.


Nicholls State University students, faculty and staff will be able to ask Nicholls President Bruce Murphy questions regarding potential budget cuts during a series of town hall meetings on campus.

The first town hall is to be held at noon Thursday in the Cotillion Ballroom and another has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Universities and higher education officials across the state have begun similar efforts to keep students and faculty members informed about nearly $400 million in cuts facing higher education when Gov. Bobby Jindal releases his budget on Feb. 27.

Higher education officials speculate cuts of that magnitude could force as many as 15 universities and colleges to shutter their doors.

“We’ll let everybody know what’s going on at Nicholls and how we’re approaching the situation, and hopefully we’ll be able to take that same message out into the community and let everybody know what the future will be at Nicholls,” Neal Weaver, Nicholls vice president for university advancement, said Wednesday.

University spokeswoman Stephanie Verdin said Murphy will also meet with business and community groups in the coming weeks.

Louisiana State University created a website, called the LSU Budget Hub, which gives people the opportunity to offer their ideas for reducing the cuts. The website also includes basic facts about the cuts and what it could mean to the university system.

In a blog post addressing the cuts, University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley details potential ramifications. Universities could experience a reduction in more than half of their state revenue. Nicholls received about $16.1 million in state aid this year, making up nearly 30 percent of its $55 million budget.

“This loss would come on top of seven years of budget reductions and significant increases in tuition costs to our students,” Woodley said.

Higher education cuts in Louisiana totaled around $700 million from 2008 to 2013, the largest per-student cuts of any state.

Over the last three decades, Nicholls has leaned heavily on self-generated revenues, namely tuition and course fees.

In 2009, Nicholls received 60.6 percent of its money from the state budget. In 2013, the college received less than 30 percent. The difference has been made up in cuts to faculty and staff, courses, programs and continual increases in tuition — about 10 percent each year since 2010.

Over the last decade the UL System has closed and consolidated hundreds of academic programs and cut about 2,000 jobs across its campuses, Woodley wrote.

Education wouldn’t be the only industry affected, she said. The state’s economy and workforce development would also be damaged by slashing the education budget. Efforts to accommodate the state’s booming workforce would be “erased” and would deter larger companies from locating in the state, she wrote.

“The economic stability of Louisiana rides on our collective ability to find both a short-term solution in the budget for next year and a long-term solution to the structural state funding deficit,” she said.

Staff Writer Jacob Batte can be reached at 448-7635 or Follow him on Twitter @ja_batte.