Louisiana’s Higher Education leaders are reiterating their concerns about potential cuts to university funding — this time to lawmakers in the Senate, where the state’s budget is currently being considered.
"This year, we’re not asking for any new money," said Louisiana State University System, President F. King Alexander. "We’re just asking for what we got last year.”
The message from Alexander and other university leaders in Thursday’s Senate Finance meeting was clear: they want stability. Jim Henderson, President of the University of Louisiana System, was more specific.
“Stabilize funding for higher ed, fulfill the TOPS promise,” Henderson said.
They had some success in the House, where a $25 million cut to higher ed was restored, and more money was sent to TOPS. But that program is still 20 percent short of being fully funded.
While most TOPS recipients end up within the LSU or UL Systems, students at Southern University rely more on Go Grants. Ray Belton, president of Southern, urged members to not only fully fund TOPS, but to increase funding to the needs-based scholarship program, "because for institutions like Southern University, those resources go a long way,” Belton said.
Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Rallo warned that the stability universities are asking for, just doesn’t exist right now.
“The uncertainty that is associated with these budgets lingering until the last day and every year is taking its toll on both faculty and students," said Rallo. "And I don’t know how long people are willing to basically put up with that uncertainty.”
Exactly when the Legislature will pass a budget remains unclear. Legislators are trying to end this session early in order to move into a special session, where revenue can be raised to balance next year’s budget and avoid cuts to programs like TOPS.