SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - "Cartoon-like" or "catastrophic" are just two of the ways some people are describing the proposed $608 million reduction in higher education funding in Louisiana. It's all part of Governor Bobby Jindal's proposed budget, which calls for reducing higher education funding statewide anywhere from 60 to 80 percent.
KSLA News 12 is told that few people believe that will really happen during the state legislative session that gets underway on Monday, April 13. But there's also no denying that more state cuts are coming in order to fill a projected $1.6 billion shortfall.
Louisiana State University President and Chancellor F. King Alexander described a $608 million cut the largest single budget reduction in the history of American higher education. In fact, we're told even a small reduction in spending for higher education could have serious consequences after years and years of budget cuts already.
Louisiana education leaders caution that cuts to higher education will only widen the gap between the need for college graduates versus the number actually available in the work force.
"What we know is we have to double the numbers of our degrees even to make a dent in the demand for graduates," explained Dr. Sandra Woodley.
Dr. Woodley is President of the University of Louisiana System. She agreed with others that the scale of Governor Jindal's proposed higher education cuts border on being 'cartoon-like.'
"$608 million, it's 80-percent of our budget," says Dr. Woodley.
Governor Jindal has proposed rolling back some tax credits. But even if the governor is able to do that, it would still leave $232 million in higher education cuts for state colleges and universities.
Dr. Woodley said she believes lawmakers will find a solution to stop that much of a cut. Even then, she says higher education funding is already very low, after 8-years of budget cuts, along with an 80-percent hike in tuition during the very same time period.
Woodley explained, "80-percent! And so many of our students are capped out. Even if we could raise it more, you're going to lose revenue because students can't afford to pay the bill so they won't come."
State Senator Robert Adley, a Republican from Benton, Louisiana went further saying, "We cannot balance the budget with these cuts."
Sen. Adley said state lawmakers will work to fix this budget crisis without raising taxes by restructuring how the state spends and collects money. He's hoping to restore higher education funding to at least last year's levels.
But Adley cautioned what might happen if funding is not restored.