GSU talks budget cuts


Grambling State University is doing its best to prepare for another major budget cut, and that effort will include student tuition increases.

According to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget plan proposed earlier this month, the university can anticipate a reduction of $3.7 million, and to continue operating at a reasonable level a number of unpleasant things might have to be done.

Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue told reporters after his recent State of Grambling State University convocation last week “it is virtually impossible to absorb a budget cut that all of the universities in the state have absorbed,” and it makes it almost impossible to plan. He also said that “over the last three and a half years we’ve lost half of our state funding.”

Pogue said the university has no choice but to increase student tuition by 10 percent. That means tuition for the 2013-14 academic year go up for in-state students staying on campus is  $6,654.75 and out-of-state students who board will pay $11,238.75. 

The president said the university has no choice as state-provided funds continue to decrease. State universities are allowed to increase tuition only if they meet a set of standards established by what’s called the LA Grad  (Louisiana Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas) Act. The statute monitors “academic targets for graduation rates and retention rates and other performance targets” that measure the university, according to Leon Sanders, Grambling State University’s vice president for finance and administration.

Sanders said in an exclusive interview that the university has hired an outside financial consulting firm, McDemmons and Associates, of Pompano Beach, Fla. The firm, led by Marie V. McDemmons, former president of Norfolk State University and a nationally respected fiscal executive, is working with Pogue, Sanders and a budget committee of administration officials to evaluate the budget implications and options to soften the financial blow.

“Depending on the level of cuts,” Sanders said, there may or may not have to undergo major

administration and department layoffs.

Pogue said the university will get through this rough period in part by “working as a team to review our options. This is a serious situation, and we don’t take this work lightly. We have prepared alternatives in the past and each year we’re forced to choose one or more of those options, or to select new ones.”

This decrease in state funding is widespread, not just for Grambling State University. All of the state’s universities will contribute to the higher education budget cuts as the governor and the state legislature aim to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. An expected $209 million budget cut is anticipated for the nine universities that make up the University of Louisiana System, the system that includes Grambling State University.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley said in a story in The Advocate recently that it becomes challenging to “negotiate contracts with teachers for more than 900,000 students the UL System is expected to enroll across its nine campuses in the fall.”

The paper also said, such budget cuts across Louisiana’s higher education systems may negatively impact academic talent who may either leave or avoid coming to the state.

In July, the Pogue will host his annual summer planning retreat, a day-long opportunity during which the president leads a group of about 100 faculty, staff, students and alumni in discussing what’s going well and how to make improvements. Pogue said the retreat will include a discussion of the impact of budget cuts and what else the university can do to maintain a quality education for students despite what he sees as an emergency financial standing.

“When we come together for the annual summer retreat on July 11 that doesn’t mean our work will be done,” added Pogue. “Based on recent years’ history, we know to expect a mid-year budget cut in December. We have to identify even more options as we plan for a successful academic year.”