You are here

February 5, 2009 — Budget & Other Updates

Dr. Joseph Savoie -- Thu, 02/05/2009 - 12:25pm

Dear Faculty & Staff,

The semester is off to a good start.  Our enrollment for the spring semester, as predicted, remains at just over 15,000 students.  Ongoing efforts in enrollment management should begin to grow these numbers starting next fall.  We did improve our registration activities this semester and I’d like to acknowledge a group of individuals who assisted in that effort.  In the days prior to the start of the semester and throughout the first week of classes, volunteers manned a table in the lobby of Martin Hall.  The volunteers were Carolyn G. Broussard, Shelly Constantin, Beth Guillet, Abby Hebert, Tina Hebert, Julia Lognion, Martha Marse, Cheryl Meaux, Linda Moten, and Mary L. Washington.  They greeted our new students, parents and visitors, provided directions, answered questions, and generally created an inviting and supportive first point of contact.  They fielded questions from 377 individuals who stopped by the table for registration guidance and directions.  Several positive comments were made about their presence and I thank them for their efforts.  We will repeat this activity for the summer semester and will develop an expanded version with multiple campus locations for the beginning of the fall semester.

At the January 15 meeting of staff and faculty, and also in my last letter to you in early January, I discussed the allocation of our mid-year budget cut of $4,320,845, which is 4.62% of our state general funds appropriation.  At the meeting, I commented that because of state revenue estimates for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, we would likely be asked to submit various budget reduction scenarios for consideration.  The Governor now has directed colleges and universities to prepare for further budget reductions for next fiscal year.  The Governor’s Office has directed us, working with the UL system office, to develop budget reduction plans that range from a 15% reduction ($14,163,455) to a 28% reduction ($25,529,953) in state appropriations.  This amount would come on top of the 4.6% that we were cut at mid-year.

Obviously cuts of this magnitude will severely affect our students, faculty, staff and community.  There is likely to be much publicity about each university’s plans for dealing with the situation and I want to provide you with some background prior to public discussion. Please know that the plans that we were required to submit are preliminary and based on a speculated budget shortfall.  Until the final budget reduction (if any) is known, it is not possible to anticipate the impact on the university.  I assure you that decisions resulting from any such reduction will be based upon broad input and the guiding principles established for the mid-year reduction.

I believe that Governor Jindal and our local legislative delegation understand that universities are engines of economic development and magnets for talent and jobs.  And, while cutting higher education has been the historical state response to fiscal challenges, it is not a viable strategy for economic competitiveness.  I am confident that they will agree that it’s time to abandon 20th century thinking to fix 21st century problems.  Common sense requires our elected leaders to choose the difficult political task of setting priorities.  These officials will need, and we should provide, encouragement and support.

  • As the state’s budget crafting process unfolds, options to address the projected budget shortfall in ways other than budget reductions to higher education should be considered.  For example:
  • the Legislature has access to part of the state’s “rainy day trust fund” and other revenue sources such as the budget surplus from last fiscal year;
  • the Federal stimulus package contains significant new investments in states’ operating budgets and will relieve pressure on projected state expenditure requirements; and
  • if necessary, increased tuition/fee and other revenue generating options can be considered as a partial offset of any reductions.

I remain hopeful that we will weather this storm, but as I have said before, hope is not a strategy.  That is why Dr. Landry and I have created nine Budget Task Forces to develop suggestions for both short-term and long-term cost savings and additional revenue generation.  The Budget Task Forces are diverse and representative of the university’s community.  These task forces will begin meeting as early as next week and will have preliminary suggestions to the Provost by mid-March.  An avenue for every person on our campus to assist in developing strategies is being created and I will notify you about access when the site is complete.

We have asked the Budget Task Forces to use the university’s newly developed strategic plan to guide their deliberations.  The plan calls for us to focus on student success; strategically build graduate programs; improve research competitiveness; become more efficient; continue to clean up, refurbish and modernize our beautiful campus; and strengthen our community partnerships to make our region stronger.  The final draft of the strategic plan can be reviewed at this link:

Despite untimely financial challenges, I remain confident that we — all of us — will continue to move the university forward.  There will be some important and difficult decisions to make in the days and months ahead, but by working together and remaining focused on the future we will emerge stronger.

Finally, you may have noticed the new blog format I’m using to communicate with you.  It allows you to view archived letters, which may be of interest as new colleagues join the university community.  My previous letters will be identified by date and topic and can be accessed by clicking on the links on the upper right hand side of the page.  From time to time I may post links to articles that provide important information.  For example, the Council for A Better Louisiana’s newsletter of February 5 may be of interest and can be accessed through this link:

Dr. E. Joseph Savoie
University of Louisiana at Lafayette