GSU students, leaders meet to talk looming state budget cuts - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

GSU students, leaders meet to talk looming state budget cuts

Hundreds of students fill the Betty E. Smith Nursing School auditorium for a town hall meeting on state budget cuts. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA) Hundreds of students fill the Betty E. Smith Nursing School auditorium for a town hall meeting on state budget cuts. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
GSU President Willie Larkin addresses students on upcoming state budget cuts. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA) GSU President Willie Larkin addresses students on upcoming state budget cuts. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
GRAMBLING, LA (KSLA) -

Now that lawmakers have proposed cuts of more than $71 million to higher education in 2016, Grambling State University students came to a town hall meeting with university leaders Thursday night to talk about their educational futures.

GSU students filled up seats, stood at the back and sat in aisles at a town hall meeting with university leaders to talk about the cuts.

"I came to the meeting tonight, basically, just to find out what’s going on with my university," said graduating senior Jeremiah Martin.

“Especially for spring sports because I’m a track athlete," said Junior Kenya Wheeler. "They actually said they might cut spring sports for next semester so I’m really concerned about that because I’m an out-of-state student.”

GSU Finance leaders report they’ve lost $15 million in state funding in the last five years, and new proposed higher education cuts from the capitol could cut them down another $2.6 million. But, GSU President Willie Larkin promised students he would weather the storm.

"When I came, I committed to staying here for seven years and I’m still committed to that," said Larkin.

GSU leaders also report they’ve lost $5 million this year after losing 724 students in 2013 and 2014.

“Our number one priority would be the recruitment and retention of students. They have to be there," said GSU Vice President of Finance and Administration Leon Sanders.

GSU students wrote in questions about raising money.

Larkin told students his administration has been traveling across the state and contacting donors to drum up more revenue.

"We are beating the pavement. We are knocking on doors. We're presenting our value propositions and we are showing people that we are a strong university," he said.

“Would everyone on this stage be willing to take a pay cut to help the offset of the deficit?" one student asked.

 "I would not be willing to take a pay cut, but I am willing to give, set up a scholarship foundation, donate $1,000 per month to equal up to $50,000," Larkin said.

Some GSU students said they're worried about what cuts will do.

“In my department, we’ve lost already three teachers from three period semesters and we’re looking at losing two more at the end of this coming semester," said Martin.

Wheeler, who's from Georgia, worried about her future at GSU.

“If they say next March we will be getting our budget cuts, I will be going back home," she said. "That’s the only option I have right there.”

Still, Martin said he's holding his head up.

"Don't stop fighting for Grambling State University because you are Grambling State University!" he said.

As far as what the financial impact to GSU will be from these cuts, President Larkin said a strategic committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni has formed to develop a five-year strategic plan for the future of GSU as the Louisiana Legislature continues their debates in Baton Rouge on the future of state funding.

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