Jindal gives relief to budget

Four-year higher education institution budgets at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University and other institutions have been cut twice each year in the last several years, so Gov. Bobby Jindal made a lot of people happy with his big announcement Tuesday.

During an afternoon news conference at the LSU Business Education Complex in Baton Rouge, the governor said he proposes giving higher education a $141.5 million increase using general funds, a 6.6 percent increase from the current level of funding. This was the first time in several years that higher education institutions were not asked to help the state with a midyear budget cut in December 2013. Grambling State’s budget has been cut by 56 percent in the last six years.

In addition, Jindal announced the creation of a $40 million workforce incentive initiation fund that will match higher education research institutions with additional financial help for those producing students with high-demand certifications and degrees. Higher education institutions will compete for some of those funds.
The governor’s plans include allowing higher education institutions to keep tuition revenues for reinvestment in the schools.

The Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy (WISE) plan calls for a stable funding for higher education and the creation of $40 million performance-based fund tied to workforce needs and innovation. The project is to better prepare Louisiana college students to better compete in the global economy.

Some state legislators and higher education presidents and system representatives joined Jindal at the news conference, including GSU’s Frank G. Pogue. He said the funding proposals will provide GSU with much-need relief since the university has had  multiple layoffs, reduced the number of vice presidents, reduced the number of deans and reduced the number of degree programs from a high of 67 to the current 47 to deal with twice yearly budget cuts.

“This commitment from the governor is wonderful news for students and higher education in the state,” said Pogue. “The $40 million for all of higher education provides a good opportunity for Grambling State University and others to consider ways we can connect university needs to specific state priorities and better meet student needs.”

“Louisiana Tech is excited about contributing to the WISE plan and the opportunities it will create for both our graduates and our State,” added Louisiana Tech University President Leslie K. Guice. “I believe WISE will ultimately result in opportunities for our best and brightest graduates to remain in‐state and to use their skills and talents to build a stronger Louisiana for all of us.”

The governor’s proposals have to be approved by the state legislature during the upcoming spring session.
“Having spent several consecutive years with multiple budget cuts-at least two each year-the thought of being able to plan for the next academic year and beyond is nothing more than absolutely exciting,” Pogue said.

Grambling State, La. Tech and other higher education institutions would be  required to provides business plans that will demonstrate how the funds would be used to help Louisiana needs fill key workforce jobs now and in the next few years.  Every year, the other universities would be held accountable for meeting goals and producing graduates.

 “A state commitment to stabilized tuition and to allow campuses to retain the revenue generated from student tuition is an important development,” Pogue said.
 “While $40 million for all of higher education is not going to be enough to help all community colleges and four year institution,” added Pogue, “it’s a good stat and a good opportunity for Grambling State University and others to consider ways we can connect university needs to these specific state requirement so we can better meet student needs.”

“Overall, this is a good day for higher education in Louisiana, and very good evidence that Louisiana can turn things around for its deserving students and employees.”

GSU and Tech are a part of the nine institutions in the University of Louisiana System, and ULS President Sandra K. Woodley also praised the news. “In the University of Louisiana System, there is a deep sense of responsibility and urgency to increase the pace at our nine universities to meet growing workforce demands and to achieve national competitiveness,” said Woodley.