LSU chief: Higher Ed faces serious budget issues
MORGAN CITY, La. — Higher education in Louisiana is continuing to face serious budgetary challenges, said William Jenkins, interim LSU system president and chancellor.
Funding for higher education is becoming more and more dependent on tuition dollars and less and less on state dollars since the economy began to decline several years ago, Jenkins said. This situation is not unique to Louisiana, however, and is happening to public universities across the U.S.
Jenkins oversees a $3.4 billion budget for 10 different institutions within the LSU system.
Despite budget cuts, LSU system enrollments are still doing well, he said. However, the system is having difficulty attracting faculty.
“We’re doing everything we can. These are challenging times. We’re still successful in many, many ways, but, just speaking for myself, I am anxious about the future,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins is hoping for stability with the budget situation. He said the LSU system cannot continue to deal with major budget cuts and uncertainty.
Still, Jenkins is not personally optimistic that state funding for the LSU system will ever get back to where it was several years ago, he said.
Five years ago, 70 percent of LSU’s funding came from state money and 30 percent came from student tuition, he said. In 2013, 66 percent of LSU’s budget comes from student tuition and 34 percent comes from the state.
Elementary and secondary education have more stable funding due to minimum foundation program arrangements, but higher education does not have that protection, Jenkins said.
LSU cannot continue to raise tuition as many households cannot afford to send their children to college at “exorbitant” tuition costs.
TOPS is also causing problems for LSU because funding for TOPS comes out of the state’s higher education budget. Early on in the TOPS program, about $70 million to $80 million in the state’s higher education budget was budgeted for TOPS, Jenkins said. That number could easily be more than $200 million budgeted in 2014.
The LSU system is going to have to start looking at other sources of funding for higher education, including public-private partnerships, success of research, using auxiliaries and providing services that universities can charge for.
“We’re looking at other avenues of funding, but the truth is, at the moment, it is still tuition and state dollars,” Jenkins said.
Another challenge for higher education in the state is that state money destined to go toward higher education is contingent upon the sale of property and other conditions.
Considering LSU’s budget issues, Jenkins hopes the economy does begin to turn around so more funding to higher education can be restored. “There are signs that perhaps next year the recovery in Louisiana will get under way,” Jenkins said.