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Higher Education: Paying More for Less


   The House Appropriations Committee got a different look at the cost of six years’ worth of higher education cuts Monday, as the push is on for colleges and universities to better prepare students to fill new jobs coming to Louisiana.

Problem number one: insufficient faculty. University of Louisiana System president Sandra Woodley says there’s not any budget room now to fill the anticipated needs.

“In order to produce more engineers, we have to be able to have funds to able to recruit new faculty members,” Woodley said, noting that the proposed W.I.S.E. fund won’t be paid out till after students earn those degrees.

Analysis by the House Fiscal Division shows—across all the higher education systems--there are over a thousand fewer faculty members than 6 years ago. LSU System president F. King Alexander told committee members that LSU’s Baton Rouge campus is really feeling the pain.

“Just on the A & M campus, we have a net loss of 220 faculty members,” Alexander said.

The budget cuts have meant that remaining faculty could not expect pay raises. On average faculty members are only making $774 dollars more now than they did six years ago. As professors sought greener pastures in other states, Alexander said, many of them took their research grants with them, further decimating academic effectiveness.

Alexander also noted the student to faculty ratio has gone from 18:1 to 24:1. And that brings up problem number two: today’s students are getting less bang for their buck, with fewer professors yet increasing tuition and fees.

“A hundred and one million dollars in instruction has been lost,” explained House Fiscal Division analyst Willis Brewer. “And then, for students, there’s been a 50-million dollar increase in tuition expenses.”

Tuition and fees have gone up, on average, 70-percent during the past six years. Much of that ends up being transferred to the taxpaying public, through TOPS. TOPS funding for the fiscal year which starts July 1st is being increased nearly 18-million dollars—to an all-time high of $82-million.

And despite the way Governor Jindal’s Division of Administration has presented the overall higher education budget proposal for the next year—describing it as a $142 million funding increase—the House Fiscal Division analysis shows the budget proposal actually cuts higher education spending again—by $11 million.