The University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors heard Tuesday that state budget cuts caused a wide range of dismal conditions in the state’s higher education system, from low morale and program cutbacks to tuition hikes and faculty layoffs.
Board members for the system that oversees nine public universities received testimony that state budget cuts may be the cause of an increase in employee thefts on campuses, particularly the institutions that haven’t been able to keep a full-time internal auditor on staff.
Board members learned about the increased thefts moments before adopting a $762 million operating budget, which leaves the system’s nine universities with about $38 million less than last year.
“There is a lot of cash on campus and we’re starting to see where the cash is not getting into the bank,” said Robbie Robinson, UL System vice president for business and finance.
Without going into specifics, Robinson mentioned an ongoing investigation on one UL System campus, where administrators believe an employee diverted about $40,000 into a credit card account.
Robinson said something that auditors call the “fraud triangle” comes into play when times are tough.
The fraud triangle is a term coined by sociologist Donald Cressey. The points of the triangle are made up of the three most common factors that occur in cases of fraud. They are incentive, or financial stress; rationalization, where the person believes the money won’t be missed; and opportunity, where a person may see a weakness within the organization.
UL System President Randy Moffett said some employees have spouses who have lost jobs, making them more prone to stress.
“Their financial situation has changed,” Moffett said. “Most of them haven’t had an increase in pay for four years.”
Moffett, however, said the system’s campuses have “done a great job” reporting when money isn’t accounted for.
On the budget, the UL board sat through a presentation that showed largely the same trend Louisiana’s other three college systems have been going through.
The reduction in state dollars is a continuation of a familiar trend in Louisiana’s higher education system that has seen state funding cut by $426 million since 2008.
Cuts to the UL System have totaled $207 million during the same period.
Edwin Litolff, assistant vice president for budget and finance, said the state is picking up 39 percent, or about $295 million of the system’s budget while the remaining 61 percent — $466 million — will come from tuition and fees.
Litolff said the system has increased tuition by $115 million since 2008, raising the average yearly cost to students from about $3,800 to $5,500.
At the same time, the UL System has cut 1,850 positions, including 308 last year, he said.
The UL board took some revenue-raising action during their meeting Tuesday, giving unanimous approval for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to allow students to vote on increased fees that would go toward campus development.
ULL President Joseph Savoie said the extra $7.50 per credit hour would generate $2.7 million to spruce up housing, bikeways and security.
Tuesday’s meeting marked the last one for Moffett, who is retiring in September after 41 years in higher education — including 30 years at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond and four years running the UL System.
The board unanimously named Moffett president emeritus of Southeastern.
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