LSU Says Budget Cuts Would Force Widespread Layoffs

BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU would have widespread layoffs, course eliminations and program closures across its campuses if the university system is forced to make the cuts under consideration by state officials, according to a budget reduction plan released Monday.

         Higher education leaders have been asked by Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration to draw up scenarios for cuts totaling $131 million for the remaining five months of the budget year. Edwards wants lawmakers to raise taxes in a February special session to avoid the cuts.

         But the administration has asked higher education leaders to prepare for the possibility lawmakers may not agree.

         In a detailed, 19-page scenario posted to its website, the LSU System said its share of the reduction, $65 million, would shutter 275 courses on its main campus in Baton Rouge because up to 10 percent of its faculty would have to be cut. The university system said that would happen even if student fees were hiked to make up some of the gap.

         At its two medical schools, 53 percent of faculty physicians would be cut in Shreveport and 12 percent of the workforce in New Orleans, while programs in nursing, dental hygiene and cardiopulmonary science would be shut down, according to the plan.

         The LSU Agricultural Center would have to declare a financial emergency, close five research stations and eliminate three academic departments, according to the document. All faculty and staff at LSU Shreveport would be furloughed several hours per week, and student academic support labs would be closed.

         Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Rallo said plans that have been submitted by all four public college systems show massive layoffs, canceled classes and decreased student services, among other reductions.

         "As you can imagine, they're pretty drastic," Rallo said. "We're talking about literally campuses laying off hundreds of people and closing buildings and not having summer schools."

         Louisiana's budget has a gap estimated at more than $700 million that must be closed before the financial year ends June 30.

         The $131 million cut to colleges assumes lawmakers will agree to tap into Louisiana's "rainy day" fund, redirect oil spill settlement money from legislative earmarks and make across-the-board cuts to protected budget areas.

         That would still leave a gap that the Edwards administration said would be split largely between colleges and public health care services, unless lawmakers agree to raise revenue.

         Edwards, a Democrat, has proposed a list of tax options for lawmakers, a majority of whom are Republican, to consider in a special legislative session expected to begin Feb. 14.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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