University of Louisiana System President Randy Moffett announced Monday he will retire in the fall after more than 40 years in higher education.
Moffett, 65, made a lot of noise at the State Capitol and in higher education circles this year by arguing against multimillion-dollar budget cuts to universities, staring down the nation’s top professors’ organization and calling on the state to distribute money to colleges more equitably.
For the past four years, Moffett has been chief of the system that oversees nine colleges and universities across the state, including University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Southeastern Louisiana University.
“It has been a privilege to serve the people of Louisiana and higher education,” Moffett said in a statement.
Moffett’s impending retirement makes him the third high-ranking departure the state’s higher education system has weathered since late April when the LSU Board of Supervisors fired System President John Lombardi for what some say was his brash personality.
One month later, Michael Martin, chancellor of LSU’s Baton Rouge campus announced that he was walking away from the final year of his contract to become the head of the Colorado State University System.
A fourth higher education exit came about in mid-June when former state legislator Vic Stelly abruptly resigned from the Board of Regents, the state’s top higher education board, six months before his term ended over what he called his disillusionment with the direction of higher education in Louisiana.
Moffett, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, did not give a reason for stepping down in the statement announcing his retirement.
The Jonesboro native took over as UL System president in July 2008. System spokeswoman Jackie Tisdell credits Moffett as having introduced to the system the 120-credit degree standard and presiding over an era of increased retention and graduation rates while reducing the time it took the average student to graduate.
Before moving over to the system office, Moffett worked at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond for 25 years in various faculty and administrative roles before serving as the school’s president for seven years, Tisdell said.
Moffett was at the helm last year when Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed merging Southern University at New Orleans with the University of New Orleans. When that failed, the Louisiana Legislature approved moving UNO from the LSU System into the UL System.
UL System Board Chair Wayne Parker, who in a statement called Moffett “one of the most esteemed leaders” he knows, said he plans to soon call a meeting of the UL Board of Supervisors’ Executive Committee to start the process of finding a successor.
Interim LSU System President William Jenkins on Monday called Moffett’s retirement “sad” and “disappointing.”
“He has been a pillar of strength in higher education for a very long time,” Jenkins said. “I’ll be sad to see him go.”
Moffett took on a leadership role during the most recent legislative session often lobbying against proposals that called for deep cuts to colleges and universities.
State spending on higher education has declined by 26 percent — about $420 million total — since 2008.
One week after the session ended, Moffett fired off a letter urging the Regents to suspend their performance-based funding formula in the wake of the Legislature’s stripping of $66 million out of the higher education budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Moffett argued the formula, which takes into account credit hours taken by students and gives weight to the types of programs offered, was not designed to work effectively when state funding is on a downswing.
Moffett contended the cuts should be spread proportionally across the state’s four college systems.
Last month, when the American Association of University Professors put Southeastern and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches on its censure list, Moffett criticized the association’s methods and what he described as the narrow scope of their investigation.
When Moffett steps down, he will be joining in retirement his wife, Barbara, the former head of the Southeastern department of nursing. The couple has three children and five grandchildren.