By one measure, you could say business is booming for Louisiana’s colleges and universities.
“LSU is experiencing right now a 28-percent increase in terms of students who are seeking admission next year, in-state. It’s more than 50-percent increase for out-of-state students,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told the Baton Rouge Press Club this week.
“And this is being played out at different institutions and in different systems across the state of Louisiana — not just LSU,” he said.
But the state's Higher Education Commissioner, Joe Rallo, says there’s much anxiety as the various systems await next week’s reveal of the executive budget proposal.
"We have been led to believe that we will take a significant budget cut," Rallo says.
While the governor isn’t unveiling specific numbers yet, he’s clear about where the axe will have to fall.
"As mandated by the Constitution, that budget proposal will be in balance,and therefore, we will be making more than a billion dollars in cuts," Edwards states. "Because of where the money is, you will see the lion’s share of those cuts directed to health care and higher education.”
The so-called “fiscal cliff is $1.1-billion, due to the expiration of “temporary taxes this coming June 30th. For comparison, the state’s entire appropriation to higher education in the current fiscal year is just over a billion dollars.
The governor admits that without legislative agreement on resolving the fiscal cliff, Louisianans can’t know how — or even if — they’ll afford college this fall.
"Parents and students won’t know what their tuition is going to be: how much TOPS will pay towards the tuition: what the GO-Grant situation is going to be for needy higher education students. Higher education institutions won’t know what their budget is going to be.”
Rallo agrees, saying the timing could not be worse.
"The students are making decisions on where to go to college — whether they stay in-state or go out of state — now."