Dig Baton Rouge

Budget cuts: Students, faculty react to potential cuts

This time last year, Bobby Jindal and his administration presented a budget with a horrible possibility to college students all over Louisiana: $300 million in cuts, according to Nola.com.

Last year’s education cuts were primarily avoided, but the budget was still not fixed. According to The Advocate, the new governor in 2016 would need to find $750 million to balance the budget. Many students, myself included, hoped this issue would be resolved when John Bel Edwards was elected.

However, a month into office, and his administration has already offered a similar, grim prospect.

The LSU President F. King Alexander sent a correspondence out on Jan. 22. His message was expressed in the first two lines.

“Late yesterday, we received a message from Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne letting us know that the state’s $750 million budget shortfall in the current year would require a $131 million reduction to higher education,” King wrote. “LSU’s statewide operating budget would bear roughly $65 million of the amount.”

In response to Dardenne’s letter, all the universities were required to submit an expected impact report. Three days later, a detailed summary of this cut’s effect on LSU was released.

Like last year, these proposed cuts, without any revisions, would devastate LSU’s faculty and student experience. Christopher Eddy, a freshman at LSU, was very troubled by the potential cuts and offered his opinion.

“It’s a sad, sad day,” Eddy said, “when the avenue that most high-schoolers take and assume to be reliable in life is being affected by decisions they have no control over.”

More than just upset, Eddy is also concerned that he will especially feel the cuts due to his creative writing major.

“Well, because my major is art specific, it’s scary that my passion’s funding could be swept out from under my feet. I would have to basically settle for a major. And what kind of future do I have, if I have to settle for it?” Eddy projected.

A few days after DIG spoke to Eddy, a notice was sent out to all TOPS recipients, saying that the program was to be temporarily suspended for a potential shutdown. Students were then quickly reassured they would not lose their scholarship this semester.

However, in Edwards’ proposal, the future of TOPS is still very much in the air. In the worst case scenario, ACT minimums would rise to a 28. This would cut funding to around 9,000 students, a drop of nearly 80 percent, according to The Advocate.

“Well honestly it’s not a shocking decision by the legislators and the state, but it is very shocking to the students,” Eddy began. “For a lot of these kids, TOPS is what they worked for their entire high-school career, it’s what they’re reliant on, and that’s what makes it so devastating.”

Rather than thinking of a new major, Eddy’s plans have shifted to thinking of a new state.

“If it does happen I’ll probably take a year or so off for work, to figure out the best financial plan to go to school in another state,” he said.

Kevin Cope, a professor at LSU and President of the Faculty Senate stressed the magnitude of the issue. According to him, these cuts would be “catastrophic.”

“It’s important to first understand how comprehensive these cuts are. They are equivalent to one-third of our entire budget, which would basically shut down LSU as we know it,” Cope said.

He elaborated, saying that to ask which departments or degrees would be most affected is “absurd.”

“You can’t pick and choose with these cuts. It would affect everything. Period. From the Humanities to Engineering to the Sciences. Curriculum development would be stopped. Faculty would see huge reductions in payroll and many would lose their job.”

Cope has been at LSU for his entire 32-year career, so he has seen this problem progress to this point firsthand.

“Just look around at the LSU Campus,” he said. “You have crumbling buildings. The library is years behind in its development. Almost every new building now is funded by a philanthropist instead of the state.”

But, Cope has a few suggestions about how students can get involved to try to fix the issue. “They can set up committee hearings, begin write-in campaigns to our legislators, or organize public events,” said Cope. “Students started a great movement last year and I think they need to do it again this time around.”

Although the cuts are devastating, Cope seemed satisfied with the initial steps taken by our state government.

“I think Governor Edwards is doing a good job by beginning so quickly and developing a revenue package,” he said.

However, Cope believes more work could be done on the revenue package and tax plan.

“The taxes aren’t raised high enough for the right producers,” he said. “We need to increase taxes on big industries, the oil and the mineral companies, and roll back a lot of their tax credits. We need to avoid letting our citizens feel the cuts.”

Governor Edwards, who promised to protect higher education in his campaign, called for a special legislative session to address the shortfall that began on Feb. 14 and will end on March 3.

Edwards also issued a statewide televised address Feb. 11. In his speech, he expanded on the severity of these cuts, his main point being the potential shutdown of LSU.

These cuts are so widespread, he said, it “means you can say farewell to college football next fall.”

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