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Story Archives: Time to put up or shut up
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|Time to put up or shut up|
Officials at the University of Louisiana-Monroe unveiled a study earlier this week, which outlined the economic impact ULM produces in the region.
The study was conducted to shed light on how the proposed budget cuts for higher education for the 2009-2010 fiscal year would affect University of Louisiana System (ULS) institutions, including ULM. The study was conducted by Applied Technology Research Corp. The ULS paid for the study.
Applied Technology Research Corp. conducted its study by utilizing a host of information, including information provided by ULS staff and individuals from each ULS institution.
Suffice it to say, it is within reason to question the objectivity of the study conducted by Applied Technology Research Corp. However, we do not fault the ULS for doing its best to convince the public that cutting state funding for higher education represents a step backward in Louisiana.
According to Applied Technology's study, ULM's economic impact on the region totals some $350 million. When La. Tech University and Grambling State University are thrown into the mix, the three ULS institutions represent a $1 billion shot in the arm for north Louisiana.
ULM President James Cofer says the budget cuts Gov. Bobby Jindal has proposed for ULM would mirror the region losing a "major" employer. Cofer also says the cuts Jindal has proposed would amount to a 20 percent cut in state funding for ULM if we factor into the equation a 5 percent mid-year cut ULM absorbed earlier in the school year.
For the record, the state appropriated some $54.7 million for ULM in the 2008-2009 fiscal year, which concludes June 30. After ULM was dealt mid-year budget cuts, that figure dropped to $53.2 million. If the budget cuts Jindal has proposed for higher education for the 2009-2010 fiscal year are approved by the Legislature, ULM's take from the state will total some $44.1 million in the new fiscal year.
Let us remember that Jindal proposed cuts for higher education in light of an anticipated $1.3-billion revenue shortfall heading into the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
State lawmakers will entertain Jindal's proposed budget for the new fiscal year during the regular legislative session, which begins Monday.
We sympathize with the higher education community, and we realize it is counter productive to cut funding for education at any level, whether it is K-12 or higher ed. However, we realize as well that every state agency, including colleges and universities, are breeding grounds for wasteful spending of taxpayer funds, or the people's money.
To cope with the proposed budget cuts for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, ULM has plans to cut some 49 tenured and/or tenure-track faculty positions. Tenured and tenure-track faculty members are the most important resources at any university, not administrators who collect a pay check – supposedly – to administer.
At La. Tech, the university proposes to cut some 16 tenured positions, which are not filled at this time. Four non-tenured positions would be eliminated at La. Tech under the university's plans to cope with budget cuts.
It is not our intent to question ULM's plans to juggle its budget to adhere to cuts the governor has proposed. Instead, we simply believe the people have a right to know how their universities are going to make do with less money.
That raises a point that needs to be made.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with staging a news conference – such as one at ULM on Tuesday – to unveil information, which was intended to sway public opinion in favor of supporting higher education. After all, higher education should and needs to be supported with every resource the state can afford to appropriate.
The higher education community, though, accomplishes little with its ongoing efforts to bemoan the fact that higher ed budgets will be cut in the very near future. Those budgets will be cut because the state cannot afford to provide the resources the universities need.
Instead of complaining about it, the higher education community should offer to work with the governor and the Legislature to identify other areas of the state budget that could be cut in lieu of higher education.
To surmise, it's time to put up or shut up.