With this year’s concluded legislative session, funds for Southeastern Louisiana University have been dramatically cut, leading to the layoff of 23 staff members.
Southeastern is no stranger to being forced to tighten its belt, with its budget being reduced by $40 million since 2008, essentially being cut in half. Students have felt these reductions with the recent loss of the french department and the layoff of many faculty and staff members.
Funds will not only be saved through the elimination of staff. According to a July 19 Southeastern press release, the year’s budget plan involves the elimination of 80 different positions through retirements, resignations and vacant positions. Funds will also be recovered through utility-related savings and fees, the recovery of indirect dollars through federal grants, fund swaps between operating and restricted funds and reductions in transfers between operating and restricted funds, including athletics. A decrease in operating funds for student scholarships will be offset with funds from the non-profit Southeastern Foundation.
“I am very disappointed we must resort to additional layoffs and workload increases,” said university President John L. Crain. “I especially regret the negative impact layoffs have on the lives of our colleagues; unfortunately the cumulative magnitude of reductions in the state support and the reality that it is unlikely state support will increase in the foreseeable future leaves us no choice.”
The reduction in funds came not only from a budget reduction this year of $9.1 million, but also an anticipated decrease in student enrollment due to an increase in enrollment standards and increases in tuition over the past few years.
“The Board of Regents has mandated increases in admission requirements for all four-year institutions,” said Southeastern’s Director of public information Rene Abadie. “Students who cannot meet those requirements can start post-secondary education at any number of community colleges.”
Student Union construction
With the layoff of staff members so affecting Southeastern’s campus, many students may be wondering why Southeastern has embarked on such a large construction project in the union. However, the money for the project has not come from the state. Students voted on the enactment of the project and the increase in student assessed fees in 2007. Southeastern students have not felt fee increases due to this project since that time, however a utility fee has been recently added.
The $32 million renovation is not only being funded through student-assessed fees, but also revenues given by participating commercial providers, namely Aramark, a partner with Campus Dining.
“There are specific bonds that are paying for the construction and can only be used on the student union renovations,” said SGA President Branden Summers in a letter to the editor of the Hammond Daily Star, responding to an editorial published on July 26 about the project.
Regardless of efforts, students, faculty and staff will indeed feel the strain of these budget cuts in upcoming times.