January 25, 2016
As you are aware, LSU was given an impossible task over the weekend: to prepare scenarios for a 32% budget cut to its statewide operations. In truth, there was not enough time to make a thorough assessment of such devastating reductions and the widespread ramifications they would create. Thanks to our financial officers, we were able to provide some equivalencies demonstrating the magnitude of a cut that size in the current fiscal year (see Budget Hub). These numbers are startling. Please remember that nothing is certain yet, and that our Governor and state leadership remain steadfast in their commitment to higher education.
If the potential cuts become a reality, it is unlikely that any university, college, or center will be able to avoid a direct impact on its student experience, research mission, or outreach efforts. Over the past eight years, you – our LSU faculty, staff, and students – have all worked wonders to balance state disinvestment with the fierce national competitive pressures. I know the lengths you have gone to, the extra duties taken on, and the stress of continued uncertainty. Yet your commitment to LSU, your students, and this state, remained strong. Your efforts are not only noticed and appreciated, but vital to our university.
As we move forward, there are some key dates you should keep in mind. The governor is required to submit a proposed FY2017 budget to the legislature by Feb. 13. Be advised that it will show the $1.9 billion shortage communicated in my last message. A special session is expected to begin on Feb. 14 and end on March 4 to address both the current fiscal year’s budget shortfalls as well as those anticipated for FY17.
Despite these trying times, LSU has increased enrollment, improved the diversity of the student body, raised graduation rates above the national average, and increased federal research expenditures. We have consolidated administrative positions and gained financial autonomies to be more self-sufficient. Overall, we have fulfilled the leadership position expected from a flagship university in state higher education. But along the way, we have made sacrifices, such as fewer academic programs, loss of faculty and staff, and reductions in support services that would have helped more students be successful – all to address continued budget shortfalls. The ripple effects of LSU’s success will be amplified or muted by the outcomes of this year’s legislative sessions.
We all have a role to play, and that is to tell our friends and communities about LSU’s work. As the state’s flagship university, its role is to educate the brightest students, produce impactful research, and contribute to Louisiana’s vibrant and unique society. What happens to LSU impacts every corner of our state.
As always, thank you for everything you do for LSU, and for your tireless commitment to the university even during times such as these.
F. King Alexander