The University of Louisiana System has scheduled weekly, 30-minute webinars to discuss its budget.
The briefing on April 10, narrated by UL System President Sandra Woodley, gave succinct but specific statistics and figures for each of the nine schools it fosters, which includes Grambling State University and Louisiana Tech University.
With the pending approval of the governor’s budget, monies set aside for education in the UL System will plummet. Along with increased cost in the operating budget, there is an anticipated budget gap of $608.3 million in the system.
During the webnair, Woodley highlighted the system’s attempts at cost efficiency. Thus far, university employees have been cut back by 17 percent. Of 2,455 employees, 508 were faculty, 360 were administrators and 230 were from Grambling State University.
The budget for salaries has decreased by 18 percent, while the budget for benefits, such as health and dental insurance, has increased by 19 percent as recompense.
Additionally, over 300 programs have been consolidated or eliminated, with a surge in online offerings and collaborative degrees.
The system has also gone green, taking steps toward natural efficiency of universities, such as minimizing power usage and reusing cooking oil. However, Woodley says this method is at exhaustion, with any more steps resulting in a lower quality of life on university campuses.
Although the name of the game right now is “conserve”, Woodley admits that many of right now’s successful cutbacks will be tomorrow’s misfortunes, especially pertaining to employees lost.
According to Woodley, the “faculty loss is the most detrimental” and eventually the “cuts will be difficult to shoulder.”
However, Woodley admits that graduate and retention rates of the UL system schools are misleading because of the lack of resources.
The briefing featured statistics showing that UL system schools are meeting and exceeding the performance of their peers, even with less funding.
On average, UL schools match the 70 percent retention rate and 38 percent graduation rate of their peers operating with about $3500 fewer per student.
In Grambling’s case, a $7.8 million decrease in funding over the last six years has caused a 34 percent rise in tuition and fees. Tuition, however, has been decreasing slightly over the past few years, leaving the school to function with nearly $7000 fewer per student than other comparable institutions.
Even under these conditions, Woodley says that Grambling is “certainly out performing its peers.”
Ultimately, Woodley says the answer is producing more UL system graduates. Currently, there are only 16,500 degrees produced per year, there should be 17,000 more a year to rectify the situation.
Louisiana also has one of the lowest percentages for residents with a baccalaureate degree with less than 22 percent; the national average is 29.