GSU feeling strain from budget cuts

Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue is doing his best to alleviate ongoing state budget cuts, but it may only be enough to soften the financial blow he expects this school year. 

Half of the university’s state-funded budget has continued to decrease in the last six years.

According to Pogue, this school year the university received $13 million in state funding, down from $31 million received in the 2007- 2008 academic year.

“We’re leading the country in cutting higher education,” said Pogue. “At the state level, Grambling is operating on an emergency financial state.”

Pogue added the consequences of underfunding impacts the “students that are being ripped off as customers.”

Senior music education major Jennifer Meregini, 20, noticed a difference in her out-of-pocket tuition fees in the summer.  After taking out loans and receiving grants, Meregini’s tuition was $2,000, up from the $1,500 she paid last semester.

“I was nervous, because I have an academic fee waiver and that extra (tuition) is money I can use on books,” added the Moreno Valley, Calif., native.

The greatest threat the institution faces is that there is no end in sight. Under the LA Grad Act, a law that measures the performance of the nine universities in the University of Louisiana System (ULS) based on retention rates, graduation rates and other performance targets, the state continues to decrease the amount of money allocated to public institutions. 

Pogue says, Grambling has “met and exceeded the performance measures in the last three years,” yet when tuition increases, state funding has decreased. The more than 50 percent of out-of-state student population are the ones affected the most.

Senior criminal justice major, Reginald Mask, 21, said, “My out-of state fees went up and tuition went up, so I have to pay out of pocket because I don’t get as much aid as I use to.”

The Houston native added that after taking out loans and receiving grants it has been a struggle getting adjusted to the tuition increase. 

The LA Grad Act also allows universities to increase tuition by 10 percent if they meet the requirements.

“Increasing tuition has had a negative effect on our student’s ability to pay for school,” said Leon Sanders, Grambling State University’s vice president for finance and administration. “It cost a student 50 percent more than what he was paying four years ago.”

To mend the financial blows the president has asked faculty to take on additional course loads, while office hours have decreased. Also, prominent staff has been asked to take on additional job duties, most of which are without pay, and limited resources still leave 140 positions unfilled. 

Sanders describes his experience of taking on additional responsibilities as a “fairly easy transition.” However, his workload has required him to work later hours and on the weekend.